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J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2018 Feb 21;100(4):334-342. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.17.00052.

The Free-Hand Technique for S2-Alar-Iliac Screw Placement: A Safe and Effective Method for Sacropelvic Fixation in Adult Spinal Deformity.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Columbia University Medical Center, The Spine Hospital at New York-Presbyterian, New York, NY.



Spinopelvic fixation is an integral part of achieving solid fusion across the lumbosacral junction, especially in deformity procedures requiring substantial correction or long-segment constructs. Traditional S2-alar-iliac (S2AI) screw-placement techniques utilize fluoroscopy, increasing operative time and radiation exposure to the patient and surgeon. We describe a novel free-hand technique for S2AI screw placement in patients with adult spinal deformity.


We reviewed the records of 45 consecutive patients who underwent spinopelvic fixation performed with use of S2AI screws by the senior surgeon and various fellows or residents over a 12-month period (2015 to 2016). In each case, the S2AI screws were placed utilizing a free-hand technique without fluoroscopic or image guidance. Screw position and accuracy were assessed by intraoperative O-arm imaging and analyzed using 3-dimensional interactive manipulation of computed tomography images.


A total of 100 screws were placed, 51 by the senior surgeon and 49 by trainees. The mean patient age was 57.4 ± 12.7 years at the time of surgery; 37 (82.2%) of the patients were female. Preoperative diagnoses included adult idiopathic scoliosis (n = 19), adult degenerative scoliosis (n = 15), flatback syndrome (n = 2), fixed sagittal imbalance (n = 6), and distal junctional kyphosis (n = 3). Five (5%) of the screws were placed with moderate to severe cortical breaches, all of which perforated the pelvis posteriorly, with no clinically notable neurovascular or visceral complications. The breach rate did not differ significantly between the senior surgeon and trainees.


The free-hand technique for S2AI screw placement, when performed in a standardized manner, was demonstrated to be safe and reliable in constructs requiring spinopelvic fixation. The accuracy of screw placement relies on visible and palpable anatomic landmarks that obviate the need for intraoperative fluoroscopy or image guidance, potentially reducing operative time and radiation exposure.


Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.


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