The biomechanical effect of artificial and human bone density on stopping and stripping torque during screw insertion.

Research paper by Matthew M Tsuji, Meghan M Crookshank, Michael M Olsen, Emil H EH Schemitsch, Rad R Zdero

Indexed on: 13 Apr '13Published on: 13 Apr '13Published in: Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials


Orthopedic surgeons apply torque to metal screws manually by "subjective feel" to obtain adequate fracture fixation, i.e. stopping torque, and attempt to avoid accidental over-tightening that leads to screw-bone interface failure, i.e. stripping torque. Few studies have quantified stripping torque in human bone, and only one older study from 1980 reported stopping/ stripping torque ratio. The present aim was to measure stopping and stripping torque of cortical and cancellous screws in artificial and human bone over a wide range of densities. Sawbone blocks were obtained having densities from 0.08 to 0.80g/cm(3). Sixteen fresh-frozen human femurs of known standardized bone mineral density (sBMD) were also used. Using a torque screwdriver, 3.5-mm diameter cortical screws and 6.5-mm diameter cancellous screws were inserted for adequate tightening as determined subjectively by an orthopedic surgeon, i.e. stopping torque, and then further tightened until failure of the screw-bone interface, i.e. stripping torque. There were weak (R=0.25) to strong (R=0.99) linear correlations of absolute and normalized torque vs. density or sBMD. Maximum stopping torques normalized by screw thread area engaged by the host material were 15.2N/mm (cortical screws) and 13.4N/mm (cancellous screws) in sawbone blocks and 20.9N/mm (cortical screws) and 6.1N/mm (cancellous screws) in human femurs. Maximum stripping torques normalized by screw thread area engaged by the host material were 23.4N/mm (cortical screws) and 16.8N/mm (cancellous screws) in sawbone blocks and 29.3N/mm (cortical screws) and 8.3N/mm (cancellous screws) in human femurs. Combined average stopping/ stripping torque ratios were 80.8% (cortical screws) and 76.8% (cancellous screws) in sawbone blocks, as well as 66.6% (cortical screws) and 84.5% (cancellous screws) in human femurs. Surgeons should be aware of stripping torque limits for human femurs and monitor stopping torque during surgery. This is the first study of the effect of sawbone density or human bone sBMD on stopping and stripping torque.