Image-based drill templates for cervical pedicle screw placement

Laboratory investigation

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  • 1 Carver College of Medicine, and
  • 2 Departments of Neurosurgery
  • 3 Electrical-Computer Engineering, and
  • 4 Biomedical Engineering, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
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Object

Pedicle screws (PSs) in the cervical spine can provide fixation superior to current fixation methods; however, their implementation is challenging due to the small size of the cervical vertebrae. In this study, the authors explored and evaluated the use of patient-specific, rapid prototype drill templates for PS placement in the cervical spine. The goal of the study was to assess the accuracy of a drill template in the placement of cervical PSs at a single vertebral level.

Methods

Volumetric CT scanning was performed in 4 cadaveric cervical spines. Using computer software, the authors constructed drill templates with a predefined trajectory designed to match the posterior surface of vertebrae C3–7. Twenty physical templates were created from the computer models using a rapid prototyping machine. The drill templates were used to guide pilot-hole drilling, and CT scanning was performed to assess the accuracy of the pilot holes. Pedicle screws (3.5-mm diameter) were placed in the pilot holes. The spines were then dissected to separate the vertebrae, and the trajectory of the screws was visually inspected.

Results

The feasibility of this patient-specific, rapid prototyping technique was demonstrated. Imaging and visual inspection of pilot holes and cervical PSs revealed that the majority of trajectories did not violate the pedicle cortex (19 [95%] of 20). The single cortical violation was judged as noncritical and would probably not have resulted in injury to a patient.

Conclusions

The potential of drill templates to aid in the placement of cervical PSs is promising. The authors' methods appear to provide an accurate technique and trajectory for PS placement in the cervical spine.

Abbreviation used in this paper: PS = pedicle screw.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Timothy C. Ryken, M.D., Department of Neurosurgery, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, 1846 JPP 200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242. email: timothy-ryken@uiowa.edu.
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