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Proc Inst Mech Eng H. 2011 Feb;225(2):194-8.

The fatigue life of contoured cobalt chrome posterior spinal fusion rods.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California, 1001 Potrero Evenue, Box 1342, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.


Intraoperative contouring of posterior rods in lumbar arthrodesis constructs introduces stress concentrations that can substantially reduce fatigue life. The sensitivity of titanium (Ti) and stainless steel (SS) to intraoperative contouring has been established in the literature; however, notch sensitivity has yet to be quantified for cobalt chrome (CoCr), which is now being advocated for use in posterior arthrodesis constructs. The goal of this study is to evaluate the sensitivity of CoCr rods to intraoperative contouring for posterior lumbar screwrod arthrodesis constructs. In this paper lumbar bilateral vertebrectomy models are constructed based on ASTM F1717-01 with curved rods (26-30 degrees total curvature) and poly-axial pedicle screws. Three types of constructs are assembled: first, 5.5 mm SS rods with SS screws (6.5 x 35 mm), second, 6.0 mm Ti rods with Ti screws (7.5 x 35 mm), and third, 6.0 mm CoCr rods with Ti screws (7.5 x 35 mm). All specimens are tested at 4 Hz in dynamic axial compression-bending with a load ratio of ten and maximum load levels of 250, 400, and 700 N until run-out at 2 000 000 cycles. Results are presented that show that the fatigue life of CoCr constructs tend to be greater than Ti constructs at all levels. At the 400 N maximum loading, CoCr lasts an average of 350 000 cycles longer than the Ti constructs. The CoCr constructs are able to sustain the 250 N load until run-out at 2 000 000 cycles but they fail at high load levels (maximum 700 N). The CoCr constructs fail at the neck of the Ti screw at high loads whereas Ti screws fail at the notch induced by contouring. Since CoCr is compatible with magnetic resonance imaging and has high static strength characteristics, the results of this study suggest that it may be an appropriate substitute for Ti.

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