Cervical Pedicle Screws: Conventional Versus Computer-Assisted Placement of Cannulated Screws


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Abstract

Study Design.Prospective clinical study with postoperative radiologic control of pedicle screw placement in the cervical spine.Objectives.To evaluate whether cervical pedicle screws can be placed safely in a conventional technique when using cannulated screws and separate stab incisions. Also, to evaluate if accuracy and safety of pedicle screw placement can be improved using a computer-assisted surgery (CAS) system (VectorVision®; BrainLAB AG, Heimstetten, Germany).Summary of Background Data.Pedicle screws are rarely used in the cervical spine compared to the use in lumbar and thoracic spine. The main reason is probably the potential risk of iatrogenic damage to the spinal cord, nerve roots, or vertebral artery caused by screw misplacement as well as the more demanding technique of pedicle screw placement in the cervical spine.Methods.A total of 52 consecutive patients with posterior cervical or cervicothoracic instrumentations using pedicle screws were evaluated prospectively. For the first 20 patients, 93 pedicle screws were implanted using the conventional technique with the image intensifier in the lateral view, and for the next 32 patients (167 screws), a CAS system was additionally used. For registration of the vertebra, surface-matching algorithms were used. For evaluation of screw placement, postoperative computerized tomography with multiplanar reconstructions in the screw axis was performed for each screw.Results.No implant-related complications were observed. No neurologic or vascular complications were found related to pedicle screws. The rate of pedicle perforations was 8.6% (8 screws) in the conventional group and 3.0% (5 screws) in the CAS group, and in all cases, less than 2-mm displacement. None of the screws with pedicle perforation had to be revised as a result of nonsufficient biomechanical stability or compression of neural/vascular structures.Conclusions.Transpedicular screws in the cervical spine and cervicothoracic junction can be applied safely and with high accuracy in a conventional technique. Cannulated screws and the use of separate stab incisions from C3–C6 with a trocar system allow for reduced screw misplacement rates. The CAS system leads to significantly reduced screw misplacement rates. Therefore, because of the potential risk of injury to the vertebral artery and neural elements, the use of a CAS system seems to be beneficial, especially for pedicle instrumentation C3–C6.

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