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Vivek Palepu, Jonathan H. Peck, David D. Simon, Melvin D. Helgeson and Srinidhi Nagaraja

OBJECTIVE

Lumbar cages with integrated fixation screws offer a low-profile alternative to a standard cage with anterior supplemental fixation. However, the mechanical stability of integrated fixation cages (IFCs) compared with a cage with anterior plate fixation under fatigue loading has not been investigated. The purpose of this study was to compare the biomechanical stability of a screw-based IFC with a standard cage coupled with that of an anterior plate under fatigue loading.

METHODS

Eighteen functional spinal units were implanted with either a 4-screw IFC or an anterior plate and cage (AP+C) without integrated fixation. Flexibility testing was conducted in flexion-extension (FE), lateral bending (LB), and axial rotation (AR) on intact spines, immediately after device implantation, and post-fatigue up to 20,000 cycles of FE loading. Stability parameters such as range of motion (ROM) and lax zone (LZ) for each loading mode were compared between the 2 constructs at multiple stages of testing. In addition, construct loosening was quantified by subtracting post-instrumentation ROM from post-fatigue ROM.

RESULTS

IFC and AP+C configurations exhibited similar stability (ROM and LZ) at every stage of testing in FE (p ≥ 0.33) and LB (p ≥ 0.23) motions. In AR, however, IFCs had decreased ROM compared with AP+C constructs at pre-fatigue (p = 0.07) and at all post-fatigue time points (p ≤ 0.05). LZ followed a trend similar to that of ROM in AR. ROM increased toward intact motion during fatigue cycling for AP+C and IFC implants. IFC specimens remained significantly (p < 0.01) more rigid than specimens in the intact condition during fatigue for each loading mode, whereas AP+C construct motion did not differ significantly (p ≥ 0.37) in FE and LB and was significantly greater (p < 0.01) in AR motion compared with intact specimens after fatigue. Weak to moderate correlations (R2 ≤ 56%) were observed between T-scores and construct loosening, with lower T-scores leading to decreased stability after fatigue testing.

CONCLUSIONS

These data indicate that a 4-screw IFC design provides fixation similar to that provided by an AP+C construct in FE and LB during fatigue testing and better stability in AR motion.