Publication: Orthopedics

Date: May 2016

Authors: McDonnell M, Shah KN, Paller DJ, Thakur NA, Koruprolu S, Palumbo MA, Daniels AH

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Treatment of unstable thoracolumbar burst fractures remains controversial. Long-segment pedicle screw constructs may be stiffer and impart greater forces on adjacent segments compared with short-segment constructs, which may affect clinical performance and long-term out come. The purpose of this study was to biomechanically evaluate long-segment posterior pedicle screw fixation (LSPF) vs short-segment posterior pedicle screw fixation (SSPF) for unstable burst fractures. Six unembalmed human thoracolumbar spine specimens (T10-L4) were used. Following intact testing, a simulated L1 burst fracture was created and sequentially stabilized using 5.5-mm titanium polyaxial pedicle screws and rods for 4 different constructs: SSPF (1 level above and below), SSPF+L1 (pedicle screw at fractured level), LSPF (2 levels above and below), and LSPF+L1 (pedicle screw at fractured level). Each fixation construct was tested in flexion-extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation; range of motion was also recorded. Two-way repeated-measures analysis of variance was performed to identify differences between treatment groups and functional noninstrumented spine. Short-segment posterior pedicle screw fixation did not achieve stability seen in an intact spine (P<.01), whereas LSPF constructs were significantly stiffer than SSPF constructs and demonstrated more stiffness than an intact spine (P<.01). Pedicle screws at the fracture level did not improve either SSPF or LSPF construct stability (P>.1). Long-segment posterior pedicle screw fixation constructs were not associated with increased adjacent segment motion. Al though the sample size of 6 specimens was small, this study may help guide clinical decisions regarding burst fracture stabilization.