STUDY DESIGN: Pedicle screw pullout testing in osteoporotic and control human cadaveric vertebrae, comparing augmented and control vertebrae. OBJECTIVE: To compare the pullout strengths of pedicle screws fixed in osteoporotic vertebrae using polymethyl methacrylate delivered by 2 augmentation techniques, a standard transpedicular approach and kyphoplasty type approach. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Pedicle screw instrumentation of the osteoporotic spine carries an increased risk of screw loosening, pullout, and fixation failure. Osteoporosis is often cited as a contraindication for pedicle screw fixation. Augmentation of the vertebral pedicle and body using polymethyl methacrylate may improve fixation strength and construct survival in the osteoporotic vertebrae. While the utility of polymethyl methacrylate has been demonstrated for salvage of screws that have been pulled out, the effect of the cement technique on pullout strength in osteoporotic vertebrae has not been previously studied. METHODS: Thirteen osteoporotic and 9 healthy human lumbar vertebrae were tested. All specimens were instrumented with pedicle screws using a uniform technique. Osteoporotic pedicles were augmented with polymethyl methacrylate using either a kyphoplasty type technique or a transpedicular augmentation technique. Screws were tested in a paired testing array, randomly assigning the augmentation techniques to opposite sides of each vertebra. Pullout to failure was performed either primarily or after a 5000-cycle tangential fatigue conditioning exposure. After testing, following screw removal, specimens were cut in the axial plane through the center of the vertebral body to inspect the cement distribution. RESULTS: Pedicle screws placed in osteoporotic vertebrae had higher pullout loads when augmented with the kyphoplasty technique compared to transpedicular augmentation (1414 +/- 338 versus 756 +/- 300 N, respectively; P < 0.001). An unpaired t test showed that fatigued pedicle screws in osteoporotic vertebrae augmented by kyphoplasty showed higher pullout resistance than those placed in healthy control vertebrae (P = 0.002). Both kyphoplasty type augmentation (P = 0.007) and transpedicular augmentation (P = 0.02) increased pullout loads compared to pedicle screws placed in nonaugmented osteoporotic vertebrae when tested after fatigue cycling. CONCLUSIONS: Pedicle screw augmentation with polymethyl methacrylate improves the initial fixation strength and fatigue strength of instrumentation in osteoporotic vertebrae. Pedicle screws augmented using the kyphoplasty technique had significantly greater pullout strength than those augmented with transpedicular augmentation technique and those placed in healthy control vertebrae with no augmentation.
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