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The insertional torque of a pedicle screw has a positive correlation with bone mineral density in posterior lumbar pedicle screw fixation

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In patients with osteoporosis there is always a strong possibility that pedicle screws will loosen. This makes it difficult to select the appropriate osteoporotic patient for a spinal fusion. The purpose of this study was to determine the correlation between bone mineral density (BMD) and the magnitude of torque required to insert a pedicle screw. To accomplish this, 181 patients with degenerative disease of the lumbar spine were studied prospectively. Each underwent dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) and intra-operative measurement of the torque required to insert each pedicle screw. The levels of torque generated in patients with osteoporosis and osteopenia were significantly lower than those achieved in normal patients. Positive correlations were observed between BMD and T-value at the instrumented lumbar vertebrae, mean BMD and mean T-value of the lumbar vertebrae, and mean BMD and mean T-value of the proximal femur. The predictive torque (Nm) generated during pedicle screw insertion was [-0.127 + 1.62 × (BMD at the corresponding lumbar vertebrae)], as measured by linear regression analysis. The positive correlation between BMD and the maximum torque required to insert a pedicle screw suggests that pre-operative assessment of BMD may be useful in determining the ultimate strength of fixation of a device, as well as the number of levels that need to be fixed with pedicle screws in patients who are suspected of having osteoporosis.

Correspondence should be sent to Professor J. H. Lee; e-mail:

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