Hooks Versus Pedicle Screws at the Upper Instrumented Level: An In Vitro Biomechanical Comparison

Donald F. Colantonio*, Anthony H. Le, Alfred J. Pisano, Joon M. Chung, Scott C. Wagner, Donald R. Fredericks, William B. Roach, Cody Schlaff, Andrew Dill, Timothy C. Mauntel, Brad D. Hendershot, Melvin D. Helgeson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Study Design. Controlled laboratory study. Objective. The aim was to compare motions at the upper instrumented vertebra (UIV) and supra-adjacent level (UIV+1) between two fixation techniques in thoracic posterior spinal fusion constructs. We hypothesized there would be greater motion at UIV+1 after cyclic loading across all constructs and bilateral pedicle screws (BPSs) with posterior ligamentous compromise would demonstrate the greatest UIV+1 range of motion. Summary of Background Data. Proximal junctional kyphosis is a well-recognized complication following long thoracolumbar posterior spinal fusion, however, its mechanism is poorly understood. Materials and Methods. Twenty-seven thoracic functional spine units were randomly divided into three UIV fixation groups (n=9): (1) BPS, (2) bilateral transverse process hooks (TPHs), and (3) BPS with compromise of the posterior elements between UIV and UIV+1 (BPS-C). Specimens were tested on a servohydraulic materials testing system in native state, following instrumentation, and after cyclic loading. functional spine units were loaded in flexion-extension (FE), lateral bending, and axial rotation. Results. After cyclic testing, the TPH group had a mean 29.4% increase in FE range of motion at UIV+1 versus 76.6% in the BPS group (P<0.05). The BPS-C group showed an increased FE of 49.9% and 62.19% with sectioning of the facet joints and interspinous ligament respectively prior to cyclic testing. Conclusion. BPSs at the UIV led to greater motion at UIV+1 compared to bilateral TPH after cyclic loading. This is likely due to the increased rigidity of BPS compared to TPH leading to a "softer"transition between the TPH construct and native anatomy at the supra-adjacent level. Facet capsule compromise led to a 49.9% increase in UIV+1 motion, underscoring the importance of preserving the posterior ligamentous complex. Clinical studies that account for fusion rates are warranted to determine if constructs with a "soft transition"result in less proximal junctional kyphosis in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E94-E100
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • PJK
  • biomechanical
  • pedicle screws
  • posterior spinal fusion
  • proximal junctional kyphosis
  • thoracolumbar
  • transverse process hooks


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