Lateral mass screws have a history of successful clinical use, but cannot always be used in the subaxial cervical spine. Despite safety concerns, cervical pedicle screws have been proposed as an alternative. Pedicle screws have been shown to be biomechanically stronger than lateral mass screws. No study, however, has investigated the load sharing properties comparing constructs using these screws. To investigate this, 12 fresh-frozen single cervical spine motion segments (C4–5 and C6–7) from six cadavers were isolated. They were randomized to receive either lateral mass or pedicle screw-rod constructs. After preloading, the segments were cyclically loaded with a uniplanar axial load from 0 to 90 N both with and without the construct in place. Pressure data at the disc space were continuously collected using a dynamic pressure sensor. The reduction in disc space pressure between the two constructs was calculated to see if pedicle screw and lateral mass screw-rod constructs differed in their load sharing properties. In both the pedicle screw and lateral mass screw-rod constructs, there was a significant reduction in the disc space pressures from the no-construct to construct conditions. The percentage decrease for the pedicle screw constructs was significantly greater than the percentage decrease for the lateral mass screw constructs for average pressure (p ≤ 0.002), peak pressure (p ≤ 0.03) and force (p ≤ 0.04). We conclude that cervical pedicle screw-rod constructs demonstrated a greater reduction in axial load transfer through the intervertebral disc than lateral mass screw-rod constructs. Though there are dangers associated with the insertion of cervical pedicle screws, their use might be advantageous in some clinical conditions when increased load sharing is necessary.
Cervical spine Biomechanics Cervical pedicle screws Lateral mass screws