During vertebral surgery, misplaced pedicle screws can harm vital neural and vascular structures. Haptic distinction between cortical and cancellous bone structures is therefore essential for correct screw placement. This tactile experience during pedicle screw placement can be obtained by training on human or animal specimens even if expensive or ethically questionable. In this study, novel synthetic vertebrae were evaluated within a hybrid simulator to provide realistic haptics for the training of spine surgeries. Synthetic vertebrae were custommade of calcium powder-based composites imitating both, cancellous and cortical bone. The mechanical properties of synthetic surrogates were validated for pedicle screw placement and cement augmentation and were compared with those obtained from human vertebrae and insertion torques were analyzed. In human vertebrae pedicle screw torque measurements resulted in mean torque slopes of 82±33Nm/m. Calcium carbonate-based materials achieved lower torques than the human bone whereas calcium phosphate-based bone surrogates showed comparable results. A further differentiation of the calcium phosphate-based vertebrae revealed, that synthetic vertebrae with lower amounts of blowing agent, achieved suitable torques (83 ± 28Nm/m) in comparison to the human reference (p = 0.39). Cement application and subsequent fluoroscopy images confirmed, that the cancellous core of the synthetic vertebrae enabled cement augmentation. In conclusion, our findings suggest, that the artificial bone samples mimic the properties of human bone during pedicle screw placement and cement augmentation and are therefore suitable as synthetic vertebrae in a hybrid surgical simulator.
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