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Biomechanical comparison of pedicle screws versus spinous process screws in C2 vertebra

A cadaveric study



Biomechanical studies have shown C2 pedicle screw to be the most robust in insertional torque and pullout strength. However, C2 pedicle screw placement is still technically challenging. Smaller C2 pedicles or medial localization of the vertebral artery may preclude safe C2 pedicle screw placement in some patients. The purpose of this study was to compare the pullout strength of spinous process screws with pedicle screws in the C2.

Materials and Methods

Eight fresh human cadaveric cervical spine specimens (C2) were harvested and subsequently frozen to–20°C. After being thawed to room temperature, each specimen was debrided of remaining soft tissue and labeled. A customs jig as used to clamp each specimen for screw insertion firmly. Screws were inserted into the vertebral body pairs on each side using one of two methods. The pedicle screws were inserted in usual manner as in previous biomechanical studies. The starting point for spinous process screw insertion was located at the junction of the lamina and the spinous process and the direction of the screw was about 0° caudally in the sagittal plane and about 0° medially in the axial plane. Each vertebrae was held in a customs jig, which was attached to material testing machine (Material Testing System Inc., Changchun, China). A coupling device that fit around the head of the screw was used to pull out each screw at a loading rate of 2 mm/min. The uniaxial load to failure was recorded in Newton’st dependent test (for paired samples) was used to test for significance.


The mean load to failure was 387 N for the special protection scheme and 465 N for the protection scheme without significant difference (t = −0.862, P = 0.403). In all but three instances (38%), the spinous process pullout values exceeded the values for the pedicle screws. The working distances for the spinous process screws was little shorter than pedicle screws in each C2 specimen.


Spinous process screws provide comparable pullout strength to pedicle screws of the C2. Spinous process screws may provide an alternative to pedicle screws fixation, especially with unusual anatomy or stripped screws.

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Correspondence to Lu Mao.

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Liu, Gy., Mao, L., Xu, Rm. et al. Biomechanical comparison of pedicle screws versus spinous process screws in C2 vertebra. IJOO 48, 550–554 (2014).

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Key words

  • C2 vertebrae
  • screw fixation
  • spinous process screws
  • pedicle screws

MeSH terms

  • Spine
  • cervical vertebrae
  • cadaver
  • bone screws