Accuracy Assessment of Pedicle and Lateral Mass Screw Insertion Assisted by Customized 3D-Printed Drill Guides: A Human Cadaver Study

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BACKGROUND: Accurate cervical screw insertion is of paramount importance considering the risk of damage to adjacent vital structures. Recent research in 3-dimensional (3D) technology describes the advantage of patient-specific drill guides for accurate screw positioning, but consensus about the optimal guide design and the accuracy is lacking.

OBJECTIVE: To find the optimal design and to evaluate the accuracy of individualized 3D-printed drill guides for lateral mass and pedicle screw placement in the cervical and upper thoracic spine.

METHODS: Five Thiel-embalmed human cadavers were used for individualized drill-guide planning of 86 screw trajectories in the cervical and upper thoracic spine. Using 3D bone models reconstructed from acquired computed tomography scans, the drill guides were produced for both pedicle and lateral mass screw trajectories. During the study, the initial minimalistic design was refined, resulting in the advanced guide design. Screw trajectories were drilled and the realized trajectories were compared to the planned trajectories using 3D deviation analysis.

RESULTS: The overall entry point and 3D angular accuracy were 0.76 +/- 0.52 mm and 3.22 +/- 2.34 degrees, respectively. Average measurements for the minimalistic guides were 1.20 mm for entry points, 5.61 degrees for the 3D angulation, 2.38 degrees for the 2D axial angulation, and 4.80 degrees for the 2D sagittal angulation. For the advanced guides, the respective measurements were 0.66 mm, 2.72 degrees, 1.26 degrees, and 2.12 degrees, respectively.

CONCLUSION: The study ultimately resulted in an advanced guide design including caudally positioned hooks, crosslink support structure, and metal inlays. The novel advanced drill guide design yields excellent drilling accuracy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-102
Number of pages9
JournalOperative neurosurgery
Issue number1
Early online date5-Apr-2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2019


  • 3D printing
  • 3D surgery
  • Lateral mass screw
  • Pedicle screw
  • Template
  • Drill guide
  • Rapid prototyping
  • SAFE

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