In general, the diagnosis of pedicle screw (PS) loosening is evaluated qualitatively based on the presence of a radiolucent area around the implant wider than 1 mm on plain radiographs and computed tomography (CT). Digital tomosynthesis is a novel imaging technology that can acquire reconstructed tomographic images of patients in different postures with relatively low radiation. In this study, PS loosening is evaluated quantitatively by measuring the PS displacement angle in the vertebrae using digital tomosynthesis.
We evaluated 41 patients who underwent posterior spinal fusion surgery using PS. The 72 pedicle screws at the cranial end of the fused segments were evaluated. The patients were divided in two groups, one with PS loosening (7 patients, 12 screws) and the other without PS loosening (34 patients, 60 screws), based on conventional CT findings. All patients underwent tomosynthesis in two different postures during a single CT session.
The displacement angles of the PS in patients in a lying position and in a standing position were measured using selected slices of the same cross-sectional view from digital tomosynthesis. The displacement angle was significantly greater in the PS loosening group (5.7°) than in the group without PS loosening (0.6°) (p＜0.01). Based on the ROC analysis, the optimal cut-off value of the PS displacement angle for identification of loosened screws was 1.7° with a sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 93% (AUC=0.98).
This new method using digital tomosynthesis has the potential to aid diagnosis of PS loosening quantitatively and more accurately than conventional evaluations.