Retrospective computed tomography scan analysis of percutaneously inserted pedicle screws for posterior transpedicular stabilization of the thoracic and lumbar spine: accuracy and complication rates

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2012 May 20;37(12):1092-100. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31823c80d8.


Study design: Retrospective clinical data analysis.

Objective: To investigate the misplacement rate and related clinical complications of percutaneous pedicle screw insertion in the thoracic and lumbar spine.

Summary of background data: Percutaneous insertion of cannulated pedicle screws has been developed as a minimally invasive alternative to the open technique during instrumented fusion procedures of the thoraco-lumbar spine. The reported rate of screw misplacement using open techniques is well described, however data is lacking on the exact failure rate of the percutaneous technique.

Methods: A total of 424 percutaneously inserted pedicle screws from 2007 to 2010 were analyzed in 88 patients, from a single surgeon series (RJM). Axial reformatted computer tomographic images were examined by 2 independent observers and individual and consensus interpretation was obtained for each screw position. A simple grading system was used for assessment of screw accuracy--Grade 0: screw within cortex of pedicle; Grade 1: screw thread breach of wall of pedicle <2 mm; Grade 2: significant breach >2 mm with no neurological compromise; Grade 3: complication including pedicle fracture, anterior breach with neuro-vascular compromise, and lateral or medial breach with neurological sequelae.

Results: The indications for percutaneous pedicle screw insertion include: degenerative (78%), trauma (13%), tumour (8%), and infection (1%). Pedicle screws were inserted into level T4 to S1. The most common levels performed include L4 and L5 with the most common indication for surgery being an L4/5 spondylolisthesis. 383 out of 424 screws (90.3%) were placed in the cortical shell of the pedicle (Grade 0). Forty-one screws (9.7%) were misplaced from T4 to S1. Of these, the majority were Grade 1 pedicle violations (24 screws; 5.7%), with 15 Grade 2 violations (3.5%) and 2 Grade 3 violations (0.5%). Of the 2 Grade 3 pedicle violations, both were pedicle fractures but only 1 had associated neurological deficit (L4 radiculopathy postoperatively).

Conclusion: Percutaneous insertion of cannulated pedicle screws in the thoracic and lumbar spine is an acceptable technique with a low complication rate in experienced hands. The overall rate of perforation is below the higher rates reported in the literature for the open technique. Complication rates including pedicle fracture were low.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bone Screws*
  • Child
  • Equipment Failure / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Internal Fixators
  • Joint Instability / diagnostic imaging
  • Joint Instability / surgery*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fusion / adverse effects
  • Spinal Fusion / methods*
  • Spondylolisthesis / diagnostic imaging
  • Spondylolisthesis / surgery*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult