Does maximum torque mean optimal pullout strength of screws?

Sara E. Tankard, Simon C. Mears, Daniel Marsland, Evan R. Langdale, Stephen M. Belkoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES:: To determine the relationship between insertion torque and pullout strength of 3.5-mm-diameter cortical screws in cadaveric humeri with different bone mineral densities (BMDs). METHODS:: Five pairs of human humeri from each of 3 BMD groups (normal, osteopenic, and osteoporotic) were used. Holes were drilled in each humerus, and maximum insertion torque (Tmax) was measured by tightening a screw until stripping occurred. In the remaining holes, screws were tightened to 50%, 70%, or 90% of the Tmax. A servohydraulic testing machine pulled each screw out at 1 mm/s while resulting force and axial displacement were recorded at 10 Hz. The authors checked for an effect of insertion torque (percent Tmax) on pullout strength using a general linearized and latent mixed model (Stata10), controlling for cortical thickness and BMD (T-score). RESULTS:: Pullout strength for normal and osteoporotic bone was greatest for screws inserted to 50% Tmax and was significantly greater than that at Tmax but not significantly different from that at 70% or 90% Tmax. For osteopenic bone, pullout strength was greatest at 70% peak torque, but it was not significantly different from the pullout strength at the 50% or 90% Tmax levels. CONCLUSIONS:: Tightening screws beyond 50% Tmax does not increase pullout strength of the screw and may place bone at risk for damage that might result in loss of fixation. Even after adjusting for bone thickness and density, there is no clear relationship between pullout strength and screw torque.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-235
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of orthopaedic trauma
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2013


  • bone density
  • inadvertent stripping
  • insertion torque
  • stripping torque

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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