Synthetic polyurethane foams are frequently used in biomechanical testing of spinal medical devices. However, it is unclear what types of foam are most representative of human vertebral trabecular bone behavior, particularly for testing the bone–implant interface. Therefore, a study was conducted to compare polyurethane foam microstructure and screw pullout properties to human vertebrae. Cadaveric thoracolumbar vertebrae underwent microcomputed tomography to assess trabecular bone microstructure. Spine plate screws were implanted into the vertebral body and pullout testing was performed. The same procedure was followed for eight different densities (grades 5–30) of commercially available closed cell (CCF) and open cell foams (OCF). The results indicated that foam microstructural parameters such as volume fraction, strut thickness, strut spacing, and material density rarely matched that of trabecular bone. However, certain foams provided mechanical properties that were comparable to the cadavers tested. Pullout force and work to pullout for screws implanted into CCF grade 5 were similar to osteoporotic female cadavers. In addition, screw pullout forces and work to pullout in CCF grade 8, grade 10, and OCF grade 30 were similar to osteopenic male cadavers. All other OCF and CCF foams possessed pullout properties that were either significantly lower or higher than the cadavers tested. This study elucidated the types and densities of polyurethane foams that can represent screw pullout strength in human vertebral bone. Synthetic bone surrogates used for biomechanical testing should be selected based on bone quantity and quality of patients who may undergo device implantation.

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