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8th Combined Meeting Of Orthopaedic Research Societies (CORS)



A rotational limit for screw insertion may improve screw purchase and plate compression by reducing stripping, as compared to a torque based limit.


Over-tightening screws results in inadvertent stripping of 20% of cortical bone screws. The current method of “two-fingers tight” to insert screws relies on the surgeon receiving torque feedback. Torque, however, can be affected by screw pitch, bone density and bone-thread friction. An alternative method of tightening screws is the “turn-of-the-nut” model, commonly used in engineering applications. In the “turn-of-the-nut” method, nuts used to fasten a joint are rotated a specific amount in order to achieve a pre-specified bolt tension. When applied to orthopaedics, bone assumes the role of the nut and the screw is the bolt. The screw is turned a set angular rotation that is independent of torque feedback. Potentially the “turn-of-the-nut” method provides an easier way of screw insertion that might lessen inadvertent screw stripping. The purpose of the current study was to use the “turn-of-the-nut” method to determine the angular rotation that results in peak plate compression and peak screw pullout force.


Three pairs of human humeri in each of three groups (osteopenic, osteoporotic, and normal) underwent plate compression and pullout protocols. For plate compression, 3.5-mm screws were tightened into strain gauge instrumented plate until screw stripping occurred. Insertion torque, plate compression, and screw rotation were measured. For pullout, 3.5-mm screws were inserted until the head contacted the plate, additionally rotated (90, 180, 270, or 360 degrees), and then pulled out. A generalised linear and latent mixed model was used to check for significant associations (P < 0.05).


Mean (95% CI) peak plate compression occurred at 286 degrees (range, 261 – 311 degrees) beyond screw seating. Plate compression significantly increased at 90 to 135 degrees but not after 180 degrees. At 270 degrees, 39% of the screws had already reached their peak ability to compress. Peak screw torque lagged behind peak plate compression by 31 ± 50 degrees, and in seeking peak screw torque, a loss of 104 ± 115 N in plate compression resulted. Screw pullout force was greatest at 90 degrees, but it was not significantly different from that of the other angle groups.


Screw rotation at 180 degrees provides plate compression and pullout strength statistically similar to those at greater rotations but without the loss of purchase associated with greater rotations.