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Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-04032018-095046

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Computer Assisted Systems for Pedicle Screw Placement: literature review and proposal of a new solution
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Ing. Ferrari, Vincenzo
tutor Prof. Caramella, Davide
  • Computer Assisted Surgery
  • Patient's Specific Surgical Guides
  • Pedicle Screw Placement
  • Spine Surgery
Graduation session start date
Introduction. Pedicle screws fixation to stabilize lumbar spinal fusion has become the gold standard for posterior stabilization. However their positioning remain difficult due to variation in anatomical shape, dimensions and orientation, which can determine the inefficacy of treatment or severe damages to close neurologic structures. Image guided navigation allows to drastically decrease errors in screw placement but it is used only by few surgeons due to its cost and troubles related to its using, like the need of a localizer in the surgical scenario and the need of a registration procedure. An alternative image guided approach, less expensive and less complex, is the using of patient specific templates similar to the ones used for dental implants or knee prosthesis.
Materials and Methods. Like proposed by other authors we decided to design the templates using CT scans. (slice thickness of 2.0 mm). Template developing is done, for each vertebra, using a modified version of ITK-SNAP 1.5 segmentation software, which allow to insert cylinders (full or empty) in the segmented images. At first we segment the spine bone and then the surgeon chose screw axes using the same software. We design each template with two hollow cylinders aligned with the axes, to guide the insertion in the pedicle, adding contact points that fit on the vertebra, to obtain a template right positioning. Finally we realize the templates in ABS using rapid prototyping. After same in-vitro tests, using a synthetic spine (by Sawbones), we studied a solution to guarantee template stability with simple positioning and minimizing intervention invasiveness. Preliminary ex-vivo animal testing on porcine specimens has been conducted to evaluate template performance in presence of soft-tissue in place, simulating dissection and vertebra exposure. For verification, the surgeon examined post-operative CT-scans to evaluate Kirschner wires positioning. After these prelimiary ex-vivo animal tests we obtained the authorization of the Italian Health Ministry to start the human study.
Results. During the ex-vivo animal test sessions, template alignment resulted easy thanks to the spinous process contact point. Their insertion required no additional tissue removal respect to the traditional approach. The positioning of contact points on vertebra's lamina and articular processes required just to shift the soft tissue under the cylinders bases. The surgeon in some cases evaluated false stable template positions since not each of the 4 contact points were actually in contact with the bone surface and tried the right position. CT evaluation demonstrate a positive results in 96.5% of the Kirschner wires implanted.
Conclusions. Our approach allows to obtain patient specific templates that does not require the complete removal of soft tissue around vertebra. Guide positioning is facilitated thanks to the using of the spinous processes contact point, while false stable positions can be avoided using four redundant contact points. The templates can be used to guide the drill, the insertion of Kirschner in case oth use of cannulated screws or to guide directly the screw.