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Pedicle Screws Challenged: Lumbar Cortical Density and Thickness Are Greater in the Posterior Elements Than in the Pedicles

Odeh K, Rosinki A, Leasure J, Kondrashov D.

Jan 1, 2021

Global Spine J. 2021 Jan;11(1):34-43. doi: 10.1177/2192568219889361. Epub 2019 Nov 22.


Study design: Controlled laboratory study.

Objective: To measure the total bone mineral density (BMD), cortical volume, and cortical thickness in seven different anatomical regions of the lumbar spine.

Methods: Using computed tomography (CT) images, 3 cadaveric spines were digitally isolated by applying filters for cortical and cancellous bone. Each spine model was separated into 5 lumbar vertebrae, followed by segmentation of each vertebra into 7 anatomical regions of interest using 3-dimensional software modeling. The average Hounsfield units (HU) was determined for each region and converted to BMD with calibration phantoms of known BMD. These BMD measurements were further analyzed by the total volume, cortical volume, and cancellous volume. The cortical thickness was also measured. A similar analysis was performed by vertebral segment. St Mary's Medical Center's Institutional Review Board approved this study. No external funding was received for this work.

Results: The lamina and inferior articular process contained the highest total BMD, thickest cortical shell, and largest percent volumes of cortical bone. The vertebral body demonstrated the lowest BMD. The BMDs of the L4 and L5 segments were lower; however, there were no statistically significant differences in BMD between the L1-L5 vertebral segments.

Conclusion: Extrapedicular regions of the lumbar vertebrae, including the lamina and inferior articular process, contain denser bone than the pedicles. Since screw pullout strength relies greatly on bone density, the lamina and inferior articular processes may offer stronger fixation of the lumbar spine.

Keywords: bone mineral density; cortical thickness; extrapedicular fixation; lumbar spine; selective densitometry; spinolaminar plate.

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