Using lamina screws as a salvage technique at C-7: computed tomography and biomechanical analysis using cadaveric vertebrae

Laboratory investigation

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Transpedicular instrumentation at C-7 has been well accepted, but salvage techniques are limited. Lamina screws have been shown to be a biomechanically sound salvage technique in the proximal thoracic spine, but have not been evaluated in the lower cervical spine. The following study evaluates the anatomical feasibility of lamina screws at C-7 as well as their bone-screw interface strength as a salvage technique.


Nine fresh-frozen C-7 cadaveric specimens were scanned for bone mineral density using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Prior to testing, all specimens were imaged using CT to obtain 1-mm axial sections. Caliper measurements of both pedicle width and laminar thickness were obtained. On the right side, pedicle screws were first inserted and then pulled out. Salvage intralaminar screws were inserted into the left lamina from the right spinous process/lamina junction and then pulled out. All screws were placed by experienced cervical spine surgeons under direct fluoroscopic visualization. Pedicle and lamina screws were 4.35- and 3.5-mm in diameter, respectively. Screws sizes were chosen based on direct and radiographic measurements of the respective anatomical regions. Insertional torque (IT) was measured in pounds per inch. Tensile loading to failure was performed in-line with the screw axis at a rate of 0.25 mm/sec using a MiniBionix II system with data recorded in Newtons.


Using lamina screws as a salvage technique generated mean pullout forces (778.9 ± 161.4 N) similar to that of the index pedicle screws (805.3 ± 261.7 N; p = 0.796). However, mean lamina screw peak IT (5.2 ± 2.0 lbs/in) was significantly lower than mean index pedicle screw peak IT (9.1 ± 3.6 lbs/in; p = 0.012). Bone mineral density was strongly correlated with pedicle screw pullout strength (r = 0.95) but less with lamina screw pullout strength (r = 0.04). The mean lamina width measured using calipers (5.7 ± 1.0 mm) was significantly different from the CTmeasured mean lamina width (5.1 ± 0.8 mm; p = 0.003). Similarly, the mean pedicle width recorded with calipers (6.6 ± 1.1 mm) was significantly different from the CT-measured mean pedicle width (6.2 ± 1.3 mm; p = 0.014). The mean laminar width measured on CT at the thinnest point ranged from 3.8 to 6.8 mm, allowing a 3.5-mm screw to be placed without difficulty.


These results suggest that using lamina screws as a salvage technique at C-7 provides similar fixation strength as the index pedicle screw. The C-7 lamina appears to have an ideal anatomical width for the insertion of 3.5-mm screws commonly used for cervical fusions. Therefore, if the transpedicular screw fails, using intralaminar screws appear to be a biomechanically sound salvage technique.

Abbreviations used in this paper:BMD = bone mineral density; IT = insertional torque.

Article Information

Address correspondence to: Mario J. Cardoso, M.D., D.C., Department of Neurosurgery, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20307. email:

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



  • View in gallery

    Computed tomography scan (left) and caliper measurements (right) of lamina thickness and pedicle width.

  • View in gallery

    Radiograph and cadaveric specimen demonstrating pedicle and lamina screws.

  • View in gallery

    Line graph comparing IT per revolution between the index pedicle screw (PS) and lamina screw (LA) techniques.

  • View in gallery

    Bar graph demonstrating that pedicle peak IT was significantly greater than lamina peak IT (p = 0.012).

  • View in gallery

    Bar graph showing that pedicle and lamina pullout strength are not significantly different (p = 0.80).



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