Instrumentation failure is a common complication following complex spinal reconstruction and deformity correction. Rod fracture is the most frequent mode of hardware failure and often occurs at or near a 3-column osteotomy site. Titanium (Ti) rods are commonly utilized for spinal fixations, however, theoretically stiffer materials, such as cobalt-chrome (CoCr) rods are also available. Despite ongoing use in clinical practice, there is little biomechanical evidence that compares the construct ability to withstand fatigue stress for Ti and Co-Cr rods. Six models using 2 polyethylene blocks each were used to simulate a pedicle subtraction osteotomy. Within each block 6.0×45 mm polyaxial screws were placed and connected to another block using either two 6.0×100 mm Ti (3 models) or CoCr rods (3 models). The rods were bent to 40° using a French bender and were secured to the screws to give a vertical height of 1.5 cm between the blocks. The blocks were fatigue tested with 700N at 4 Hz until failure. The average number of cycles to failure for the Ti rod models was 12840 while the CoCr rod models failed at a significantly higher, 58351 cycles (P=0.003). All Ti models experienced rod fracture as the mode of failure. Two out of the three CoCr models had rod fractures while the last sample failed via screw fracture at the screw-tulip junction. The risk of rod failure is substantial in the setting of long segment spinal arthrodesis and corrective osteotomy. Efforts to increase the mechanical strength of posterior constructs may reduce the occurrence of this complication. Utilizing CoCr rods in patients with pedicle subtraction osteotomy may reduce the rate of device failure during maturation of the posterior fusion mass and limit the need for supplemental anterior column support.
Keywords: cobalt-chromium; pedical subtraction osteotomy; posterior spinal fusion rods; spinal deformity; titanium.