Factors Affecting the Pullout Strength of Cancellous Bone Screws

[+] Author and Article Information
J. R. Chapman, R. M. Harrington, K. M. Lee, P. A. Anderson, A. F. Tencer, D. Kowalski

Harborview Biomechanics Laboratory of the Department of Orthopaedics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195

J Biomech Eng 118(3), 391-398 (Aug 01, 1996) (8 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2796022 History: Received September 02, 1994; Revised August 10, 1995; Online October 30, 2007


Screws placed into cancellous bone in orthopedic surgical applications, such as fixation of fractures of the femoral neck or the lumbar spine, can be subjected to high loads. Screw pullout is a possibility, especially if low density osteoporotic bone is encountered. The overall goal of this study was to determine how screw thread geometry, tapping, and cannulation affect the holding power of screws in cancellous bone and determine whether current designs achieve maximum purchase strength. Twelve types of commercially available cannulated and noncannulated cancellous bone screws were tested for pullout strength in rigid unicellular polyurethane foams of apparent densities and shear strengths within the range reported for human cancellous bone. The experimentally derived pullout strength was compared to a predicted shear failure force of the internal threads formed in the polyurethane foam. Screws embedded in porous materials pullout by shearing the internal threads in the porous material. Experimental pullout force was highly correlated to the predicted shear failure force (slope = 1.05, R2 = 0.947) demonstrating that it is controlled by the major diameter of the screw, the length of engagement of the thread, the shear strength of the material into which the screw is embedded, and a thread shape factor (TSF) which accounts for screw thread depth and pitch. The average TSF for cannulated screws was 17 percent lower than that of noncannulated cancellous screws, and the pullout force was correspondingly less. Increasing the TSF, a result of decreasing thread pitch or increasing thread depth, increases screw purchase strength in porous materials. Tapping was found to reduce pullout force by an average of 8 percent compared with nontapped holes (p = 0.0001). Tapping in porous materials decreases screw pullout strength because the removal of material by the tap enlarges hole volume by an average of 27 percent, in effect decreasing the depth and shear area of the internal threads in the porous material.

Copyright © 1996 by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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