Wolfgang Lehmann, Michael Blauth, Daniel Briem, PD Dr. Ulf Schmidt

December 2003, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 69 - 75 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-003-0578-z

First Online: 17 December 2003

Anterior plate fixation with unicortical screw purchase does not involve the risk of posterior cortex penetration and possible injuries of the spinal cord. However, there are very few biomechanical data about the immediate stability of non-locking plate fixation with unicortical or bicortical screw placement. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the immediate biomechanical properties in terms of flexibility of a non-locking anterior plate system with 4.5-mm screw fixation and unicortical or bicortical screw purchase applied to a single destabilized cervical spine motion segment. Using fresh cadaveric cervical spine specimens C3-C7, multidirectional flexibility was measured at the level C4-C5 before and after destabilization and fixation with an anterior plate with either unicortical or bicortical screw purchase. The results showed that fixed cervical spine segments with anterior plate and bicortical screw purchase were more rigid than intact specimens in all modes of testing. The difference was statistically significant for flexion and extension (P<0.001). Plate fixation with unicortical screw purchase had statistically significant decreased ranges of motion compared to the intact specimen only in extension. Neither unicortical nor bicortical screw purchase decreased the range of motion significantly in axial rotation compared to the intact specimens. This in vitro study documented that neither unicortical nor bicortical screw purchase with non-locking plate fixation can increase stability in all modes of testing, in axial rotation in particular. Direct comparison between the group with uni- and that with bicortical screw fixation did not reveal significant differences, and therefore no advantage was shown for either type of screw fixation. Therefore, we demonstrated that both uni- and bicortical screw purchase with non-locking plate fixation can decrease immediate flexibility of the tested motion segment, with better results for bicortical purchase. No significant differences were found comparing the two groups of screw fixation. These data suggest that unicortical screw fixation can be used for anterior plate fixation with a comparable immediate stability to bicortical screw fixation.

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