Optimized Screw Trajectory for Lumbar Cortical Bone Trajectory Pedicle Screws Based on Clinical Outcome: Evidence Favoring the Buttress Effect Theory

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Abstract

Background

Cortical bone trajectory (CBT) is a relatively new technique for pedicle screw insertion in the field of spine surgery. Previous studies have demonstrated the significantly better pullout and toggle characteristics the new method offers, and it appears to have certain advantages over the widely used traditional trajectory. The mechanism of the pullout and toggle characteristics still remains unknown.

Purpose

To report the medium- to long-term follow-up findings of patients who underwent posterior lumbar interbody fusion or posterior lumbar fusion (PLIF/PLF) at our institution and to discuss the ideal screw trajectory when using this technique.

Study Design

Retrospective radiologic study.

Methods

Fifty-five patients who underwent PLIF/PLF for lumbar spondylosis using the new technique between January 2011 and January 2016 were included. Clinical outcome was assessed using the Japanese Orthopaedic Association scores for low back pain and visual analog scale scores. Screw loosening was evaluated via the presence of a translucent zone surrounding the pedicle screw using plain X-radiography (Xp). The screw trajectory was evaluated by measuring the rostral range (RR) and the lateral range score (LRS). The RR is the angle between the line drawn along the distal end plate of the vertebra and the line drawn along the screw on the lateral view. The LRS is the score given depending on the position of the tip of the screw seen on the Xp taken in the anteroposterior (AP) view. The pedicle ring is equally divided into the medial third (zone A), central third (zone B), and the lateral third (zone C) by four vertical lines. A score of 0 to 3 points is given depending on the position of the tip of the screw: 0, outside the pedicle ring; 1, zone A; 2, zone B; and 3, zone C.

Results

Bone fusion was recorded in 49 patients (49/55 patients). The total number of screws with a visible translucent zone on Xp was 26 (26/242 screws). When the screws are inserted at a more acute angle in the lateral view (low RR) or when the screws are directed more medially (low LRS), the risk of developing a translucent zone around the pedicle screw increased.

Conclusion

With CBT, the pedicle screws are inserted from the pars interarticularis that is rich in cortical bone, strong enough to withstand the substantial forces usually encountered in the region. Our clinical data suggest that the optimal screw trajectory is one where the screw is inserted at an angle > 22.55 degrees (high RR) on the lateral view Xp and where the tip of the screw is directed toward the lateral third of the pedicle on the AP Xp. We believe the naturally occurring buttress effect that exists in the vertebra may give CBT a mechanical and anatomical advantage over the traditional screw trajectory.

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