Variability of the pullout strength of cancellous bone screws with cement augmentation
Background: orthopaedic surgeons often face clinical situations where improved screw holding power in cancellous bone is needed. Injectable calcium phosphate cements are one option to enhance fixation. Methods: paired screw pullout tests were undertaken in which human cadaver bone was augmented with calcium phosphate cement. A finite element model was used to investigate sensitivity to screw positional placement. Findings: statistical analysis of the data concluded that the pullout strength was generally increased by cement augmentation in the in vitro human cadaver tests. However, when comparing the individual paired samples there were surprising results with lower strength than anticipated after augmentation, in apparent contradiction to the generally expected conclusion. Investigation using the finite element model showed that these strength reductions could be accounted for by small screw positional changes. A change of 0.5 mm might result in predicted pullout force changes of up to 28%. Interpretation: small changes in screw position might lead to significant changes in pullout strength sufficient to explain the lower than expected individual pullout values in augmented cancellous bone. Consequently whilst the addition of cement at a position of low strength would increase the pullout strength at that point, it might not reach the pullout strength of the un-augmented paired test site. However, the overall effect of cement augmentation produces a significant improvement at whatever point in the bone the screw is placed. The use of polymeric bone-substitute materials for tests may not reveal the natural variation encountered in tests using real bone structures.