Biomechanics of sacropelvic fixation: a comprehensive finite element comparison of three techniques

Eur Spine J. 2020 Feb;29(2):295-305. doi: 10.1007/s00586-019-06225-5. Epub 2019 Nov 26.


Purpose: Sacropelvic fixation is frequently used in combination with thoracolumbar instrumentation for complex deformity correction and is commonly associated with pseudoarthrosis, implant failure and loosening. This study compared pedicle screw fixation (PED) with three different sacropelvic fixation techniques, namely iliac screws (IL), S2 alar-iliac screws (S2AI) and laterally placed triangular titanium implants (SI), all in combination with lumbosacral instrumentation, accounting for implant micromotion.

Methods: Existing finite element models of pelvis-L5 of three patients including lumbopelvic instrumentation were utilized. Moments of 7.5 Nm in the three directions combined with a 500 N compressive load were simulated. Measured metrics included flexibility, instrumentation stresses and bone-implant interface loads.

Results: Fixation effectively reduced the sacroiliac flexibility. Compared to PED, IL and S2AI induced a reduction in peak stresses in the S1 pedicle screws. Rod stresses were mostly unaffected by S2AI and SI, but IL demonstrated a stress increase. In comparison with a previous work depicting full osteointegration, SI was found to have similar instrumentation stresses as those due to PED.

Conclusions: Fixation with triangular implants did not result in stress increase on the lumbosacral instrumentation, likely due to the lack of connection with the posterior rods. IL and S2AI had a mild protective effect on S1 pedicle screws in terms of stresses and bone-implant loads. IL resulted in an increase in the rod stresses. A comparison between this study and previous work incorporating full osteointegration demonstrates how these results may be applied clinically to better understand the effects of different treatments on patient outcomes. These slides can be retrieved under Electronic Supplementary Material.

Keywords: Alar-iliac screws; Iliac screws; Micromotion; Pelvic fixation; Pseudoarthrosis; Screw loosening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Humans
  • Ilium / surgery
  • Pedicle Screws
  • Sacrum / surgery
  • Spinal Fusion*