BACKGROUND: Pediatric occipitothoracic fusion can be challenging because of small size pedicles and thin occipital bone. Three-dimensional (3D) printing technology can help with accurate screw insertion but has not been described for occipital keel plate positioning so far.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the novel use of 3D technology to position occipital keel plates during pediatric occipitothoracic fixation.
METHODS: A young boy with segmental spinal dysgenesis presented with asymmetrical pyramidal paresis in all limbs. Developmental abnormities of the cervical spine caused a thinned spinal cord, and because of progressive spinal cord compression, surgical intervention by means of occipitothoracic fixation was indicated at the age of 3 yr.Because of the small-size pedicles and thin occipital bone, the pedicle screws and occipital plates were planned meticulously using 3D virtual surgical planning technology. The rods were virtually bent in order to properly align with the planned screws. By means of 3D-printed guides, the surgical plan was transferred to the operating theater. For the occipital bone, a novel guide concept was developed, aiming for screw positions at maximal bone thickness.
RESULTS: The postoperative course was uneventful, and radiographs showed good cervical alignment. After superimposing the virtual plan with the intraoperative acquired computed tomography, it was confirmed that the occipital plate positions matched the virtual plan and that pedicle screws were accurately inserted without signs of breach.
CONCLUSION: The use of 3D technology has greatly facilitated the performance of the occipitothoracic fixation and could, in the future, contribute to safer pediatric spinal fixation procedures.