Thoracic pedicle screws: Postoperative computerized tomography scanning assessment

Robert F. Heary, Christopher M. Bono, Margaret Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Object. The authors evaluated the accuracy of placement of thoracic pedicle screws by performing postoperative computerized tomography (CT) scanning. A grading system is presented by which screw placement is classified in relation to neurological, bone, and intrathoracic landmarks. Methods. One hundred eighty-five thoracic pedicle screws were implanted in 27 patients with the assistance of computer image guidance or fluoroscopy. Postoperative CT scanning was conducted to determine a grade for each screw: Grade I, entirely contained within pedicle; Grade II, violates lateral pedicle but screw tip entirely contained within the vertebral body (VB); Grade III, tip penetrates anterior or lateral VB; Grade IV, breaches medial or inferior pedicle; and Grade V, violates pedicle or VB and endangers spinal cord, nerve root, or great vessels and requires immediate revision. Based on anatomical morphometry, the spine was subdivided into upper (T1-2), middle (T3-6), and lower (T7-12) regions. Statistical analyses were performed to compare regions. The mean follow-up period was 37.6 months. The following postoperative CT scanning-documented grades were determined: Grade I, 160 screws (86.5%); Grade II, 15 (8.1%); Grade III, six (3.2%); Grade IV, three (1.6%); and Grade V, one (0.5%). Among cases involving screw misplacements, Grade II placement was most common, and this occurred most frequently in the middle thoracic region. Conclusions. The authors' grading system has advantages over those previously described; however, further study to determine its reliability, reproducibility, and predictive value of clinical sequelae is warranted. Postoperative CT scanning should be considered the gold standard for evaluating thoracic pedicle screw placement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-331
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number4 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Apr 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


  • Computerized tomography
  • Pedicle screw
  • Spinal fixation
  • Thoracic spine


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