Ball tip technique for thoracic pedicle screw placement in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: Technical note

Kota Watanabe, Morio Matsumoto, Ken Ishii Takashi Tsuji, Hironari Takaishi, Masaya Nakamura, Yoshiaki Toyama, Kazuhiro Chiba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Object. The aim in this study was to evaluate the efficacy of the ball tip technique in placing thoracic pedicle screws (TPSs), as compared with the conventional freehand technique, in both a cadaveric study and a clinical study of patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Although posterior spinal surgery using TPSs has been widely applied, these screws are associated with the potential risk of vascular, pulmonary, or neurological complications. To further enhance the accuracy and safety of TPS placement, the authors developed the ball tip technique. Methods. After creating an appropriate starting point for probe insertion, a specially designed ball tip probe consisting of a ball-shaped tip with a flexible metal shaft is used to make a guide hole into the pedicle. Holding the probe with the fingertips while using an appropriate amount of pressure or by tapping it gently and continuously with a hammer, one can safely insert the ball tip probe into the cancellous channel in the pedicle. In a cadaveric study, 5 spine fellows with similar levels of experience in placing TPSs applied the ball tip or the conventional technique to place screws in 5 cadavers with no spinal deformities. The incidence of misplaced screws was evaluated by dissecting the spines. In a clinical study, 40 patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis underwent posterior surgery with TPS placement via the ball tip or conventional technique (20 patients in each treatment group). The accuracy of the TPS placements was evaluated on postoperative axial CT scanning. Results. In the cadaveric study, 100 TPSs were evaluated, and the incidence of misplaced screws was 14% in the ball tip group and 34% in the conventional group (p = 0.0192). In the clinical study, 574 TPSs were evaluated. One hundred seventy-one intrapedicular screws (67%) were recognized in the conventional group and 288 (90%) in the ball tip group (p < 0.01). In the conventional and ball tip groups, the respective numbers of TPSs with a pedicle breach of ≤ 2 mm were 20 (8%) and 15 (5%), those with a pedicle breach of > 2 mm were 32 (13%) and 9 (3%; p < 0.01), and those located in the costovertebral joints were 32 (13%) and 7 (2%). Conclusions. In both cadaveric and clinical studies the ball tip technique enhanced the accuracy of TPS placement as compared with the conventional freehand technique. Thus, the ball tip technique is useful for the accurate and safe placement of TPSs in deformed spines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-252
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Aug


  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis
  • Ball tip technique
  • Posterior correction surgery
  • Thoracic pedicle screw

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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