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Intraoperative 3-dimensional imaging (O-arm) for assessment of pedicle screw position: Does it prevent unacceptable screw placement?

Jonathan N. Sembrano, MD,1,2 David W. Polly Jr, MD,1 Charles Gerald T. Ledonio, MD,1 Edward Rainier G. Santos, MD1

1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 2Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Minneapolis, MN



Pedicle screws are biomechanically superior over other spinal fixation devices. When improperly positioned, they lose this advantage and put adjacent structures at risk. Accurate placement is therefore critical. Postoperative computed tomography (CT) scans are the imaging gold standard and have shown malposition rates ranging from 2% to 41%. The O-arm (Medtronic Navigation, Louisville, Colorado) is an intraoperative CT scanner that may allow intervention for malpositioned screws while patients are still in the operating room. However, this has not yet been shown in clinical studies. The primary objective of this study was to assess the usefulness of the O-arm for evaluating pedicle screw position by answering the following question: What is the rate of intraoperative pedicle screw revision brought about by O-arm imaging information? A secondary question was also addressed: What is the rate of unacceptable thoracic and lumbar pedicle screw placement as assessed by intraoperative O-arm imaging?


This is a case series of consecutive patients who have undergone spine surgery for which an intraoperative 3-dimensional (3D) CT scan was used to assess pedicle screw position. The study comprised 602 pedicle screws (235 thoracic and 367 lumbar/sacral) placed in 76 patients, and intraoperative 3D (O-arm) imaging was obtained to assess screw position. Action taken at the time of surgery based on imaging information was noted. An independent review of all scans was also conducted, and all screws were graded as either optimal (no breach), acceptable (breach ≤2 mm), or unacceptable (breach >2 mm). The rate of pedicle screw revision, as detected by intraoperative 3D CT scan, was determined.


On the basis of 3D imaging information, 17 of 602 screws (2.8%) in 14 of 76 cases (18.4%) were revised at the time of surgery. On independent review of multiplanar images, 11 screws (1.8%) were found to be unacceptable, 32 (5.3%) were acceptable, and 559 (92.9%) were optimal. All unacceptable screws were revised to an optimal or acceptable position, and an additional 6 acceptable screws were revised to an optimal position. Thus, by the end of the cases, none of the 602 pedicle screws in the 76 surgical procedures was in an unacceptable position.


The new-generation intraoperative 3D imaging system (O-arm) is a useful tool that allows more accurate assessment of pedicle screw position than plain radiographs or fluoroscopy alone. It prompted intraoperative repositioning of 2.8% of pedicle screws in our series. Most importantly, it allowed identification and revision of all unacceptably placed pedicle screws without the need for reoperation.

Pedicle screw, Pedicle screw revision, Pedicle screw malposition, O-arm, Intraoperative 3-D imaging
Volume 6