Acute failure of S2-alar-iliac screw pelvic fixation in adult spinal deformity: novel failure mechanism, case series, and review of the literature

Christopher T. Martin, David W. Polly, Kenneth Holton, Jose E San Miguel, Melissa S Albersheim, Paul A Lender, Jonathan N. Sembrano, Matthew Hunt, Kristen E Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Pelvic fixation with S2-alar-iliac (S2AI) screws is an established technique in adult deformity surgery. The authors' objective was to report the incidence and risk factors for an underreported acute failure mechanism of S2AI screws.

METHODS: The authors retrospectively reviewed a consecutive series of ambulatory adults with fusions extending 3 or more levels, and which included S2AI screws. Acute failure of S2AI screws was defined as occurring within 6 months of the index surgery and requiring surgical revision.

RESULTS: Failure occurred in 6 of 125 patients (5%) and consisted of either slippage of the rods or displacement of the set screws from the S2AI tulip head, with resultant kyphotic fracture. All failures occurred within 6 weeks postoperatively. Revision with a minimum of 4 rods connecting to 4 pelvic fixation points was successful. Two of 3 (66%) patients whose revision had less fixation sustained a second failure. Patients who experienced failure were younger (56.5 years vs 65 years, p = 0.03). The magnitude of surgical correction was higher in the failure cohort (number of levels fused, change in lumbar lordosis, change in T1-pelvic angle, and change in coronal C7 vertical axis, each p < 0.05). In the multivariate analysis, younger patient age and change in lumbar lordosis were independently associated with increased failure risk (p < 0.05 for each). There was a trend toward the presence of a transitional S1-2 disc being a risk factor (OR 8.8, 95% CI 0.93-82.6). Failure incidence was the same across implant manufacturers (p = 0.3).

CONCLUSIONS: All failures involved large-magnitude correction and resulted from stresses that exceeded the failure loads of the set plugs in the S2AI tulip, with resultant rod displacement and kyphotic fractures. Patients with large corrections may benefit from 4 total S2AI screws at the time of the index surgery, particularly if a transitional segment is present. Salvage with a minimum of 4 rods and 4 pelvic fixation points can be successful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-61
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© AANS 2022, except where prohibited by US copyright law.


  • S2-alar-iliac
  • S2AI
  • adult spinal deformity
  • distal junctional failure
  • instrumentation failure
  • lumbar fusion
  • pelvic fixation
  • sacral

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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