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Torque forces of expandable titanium vertebral body replacement cages during expansion and subsidence in the osteoporotic lumbar spine.

Clinical Biomechanics 2024 April 10
BACKGROUND: The application of expandable titanium-cages has gained widespread use in vertebral body replacement for indications such as burst fractures, tumors and infectious destruction. However, torque forces necessary for a satisfactory expansion of these implants and for subsidence of them into the adjacent vertebrae are unknown within the osteoporotic spine.

METHODS: Six fresh-frozen human, osteoporotic, lumbar spines were dorsally instrumented with titanium implants (L2-L4) and a partial corpectomy of L3 was performed. An expandable titanium-cage was inserted ventrally and expanded by both residents and senior surgeons until fixation was deemed sufficient, based on haptic feedback. Torque forces for expansion were measured in Nm. Expansion was then continued until cage subsidence occurred. Torque forces necessary for subsidence were recorded. Strain of the dorsal rods during expansion was measured with strain gauges.

FINDINGS: The mean torque force for fixation of cages was 1.17 Nm (0.9 Nm for residents, 1.4 Nm for senior surgeons, p = .06). The mean torque force for subsidence of cages was 3.1 Nm (p = .005). Mean peak strain of the dorsal rods was 970 μm/m during expansion and 1792 μm/m at subsidence of cages (p = .004).

INTERPRETATION: The use of expandable titanium-cages for vertebral body replacement seems to be a primarily safe procedure even within the osteoporotic spine as torque forces required for subsidence of cages are nearly three times higher than those needed for fixation. Most of the expansion load is absorbed by straining of the dorsal instrumentation. Rod materials other than titanium may alter the torque forces found in this study.

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