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Dean Chou, Adolfo Espinoza Larios, Robert H. Chamberlain, Mary S. Fifield, Roger Hartl, Curtis A. Dickman, Volker K. H. Sonntag and Neil R. Crawford

Object

A flexibility experiment using human cadaveric thoracic spine specimens was performed to determine biomechanical differences among thoracolumbar two-screw plate, single-screw plate, and dual-rod systems. A secondary goal was to investigate differences in the ability of the systems to stabilize the spine after a one- or two-level corpectomy.

Methods

The authors evaluated 21 cadaveric spines implanted with a titanium mesh cage and three types of anterior thoracolumbar supplementary instrumentation after one-level thoracic corpectomies. Pure moments were applied quasistatically while three-dimensional motion was measured optoelectronically. The lax zone, stiff zone, and range of motion (ROM) were measured during flexion, extension, left and right lateral bending, and left and right axial rotation. Corpectomies were expanded to two levels, and testing was repeated with longer hardware.

Biomechanical testing showed that the single-bolt plate system was no different from the dual-rod system with two screws in limiting ROM. The single-bolt plate system performed slightly better than the two-screw plate system. Across the same two levels, there was an average of 19% more motion after a two-level corpectomy than after a one-level corpectomy. In general, however, the difference across the different loading modes was insignificant.

Conclusions

Biomechanically, the single-screw plate system is equivalent to a two-screw dual-rod and a two-screw plate system. All three systems performed similarly in stabilizing the spine after one- or two-level corpectomies.

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Dean Chou, Roger Hartl and Volker K. H. Sonntag

✓ Conus medullaris injury from burst fractures is known to occur in conjunction with other neurological deficits, including lower-extremity motor weakness or sensory changes. Rarely does an isolated conus medullaris injury occur from an extradural cause without other neurological deficits. The authors report four cases of L-1 burst fractures in which conus medullaris dysfunction was the sole neurological injury in the absence of lower-extremity involvement.