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The use of carbon fiber/polyetheretherketone (CF/PEEK) in pedicle screw fixation for spinal neoplasms-potential advantages in postoperative imaging and radiotherapy planning.

BACKGROUND: Titanium pedicle screw fixation complicates postoperative care in patients with spinal neoplasms due to postoperative imaging artefacts and dose perturbation. This study aims to measure the benefits of using carbon fiber/polyetheretherketone (CF/PEEK) pedicle fixation compared to titanium in postoperative imaging, radiotherapy planning and delivery for spinal neoplasms treated with conventional external beam radiotherapy with a commercial treatment planning system.

METHODS: The properties of CF/PEEK pedicle fixation systems were compared to titanium in radiotherapy dose planning accuracy and postoperative computed tomography (CT) image quality. Dose profiles through the screw, tulip and longitudinal axis of the screw were acquired with radiochromic films and compared to a collapsed cone algorithm simulation, to measure dose agreement. The image quality of postoperative CTs were compared by defining four regions of interest around the vertebrae and screws in water phantom models and previous planning CTs, and comparing calculated artefact indexes (AIs).

RESULTS: CF/PEEK screws have non-inferior dosimetric prediction accuracy up to 50 mm beneath the screw for collapsed-cone algorithm planning systems. There is a statistically significant reduction in the absolute difference between calculated and measured dose at a depth of 2 mm beneath the screw. There is minimal attenuation with CF/PEEK relative to the surrounding dose, extending to 50 mm beneath the screw. There is a statistically significant improvement in CT imaging quality with reduced AIs in CF/PEEK fixation compared to titanium in both model and patient CT plans.

CONCLUSIONS: CF/PEEK pedicle fixation can provide benefits in postoperative imaging and photon radiotherapy planning and delivery to patients with spinal neoplasms.

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