In Vivo MRI Quantification of Human Disc Compression and Flexion/Extension

Disc function is mechanical, and measures of disc mechanical function are important to address spine function, degenerative disc disease, and low back pain. In vivo measures of disc mechanical function are needed, however the current standard in disc imaging is to acquire a single static image and classify the disc’s appearance using qualitative integer scales for degree of degeneration. Current grading standards are acknowledged as insufficient to identify symptomatic discs for treatment. In addition, static T2 weighted MRI cannot provide mechanical function information – mechanics must be measured as the change following a load or deformation perturbation. Because the disc experiences significant compression and height loss throughout the day, and because flexion-extension postures are often associated with low back pain, these physiological mechanical perturbations have potential to be used to quantify disc mechanics in vivo. The objective of this study was to use MRI-based methods to quantify in vivo disc function by measuring changes in disc geometry and T2 relaxation time with diurnal changes and with controllable posture. Quantification of in vivo disc mechanics by using diurnal loading or prescribed posture changes has potential to improve our ability to identify, evaluate, and treat degenerative disc disease. Symptomatic discs may have aberrant mechanics; if so, in vivo measurements of mechanical function may, with continued development, facilitate diagnosis of pathological discs.
Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering

Nucleotomy Alters Internal Strain Distribution of the Human Lumbar Intervertebral Disc

Nucleotomy is a surgical procedure following herniation and also simulates the reduced nucleus pulpousus (NP) pressure that occurs with disc degeneration. Internal disc strains are an important factor in disc function, yet it is unclear how internal strains are affected by nucleotomy. Grade II L3-L4 human cadaveric discs (n=6) were analyzed intact and after a partial nucleotomy that removed 30-50% of the NP through a left posterolateral incision (incision) while the contralateral side remained intact (uninjured). Two cycles of stress-relaxation testing were performed for reference (50N) and loaded (0.70MPa) configurations. After each 8hour equilibration period, the reference and loaded discs were imaged separately in a 7T MRI scanner (0.3mm isotropic resolution). The reference and loaded images were registered to calculate internal strain within the annulus fibrosus (AF) lamellae and discs were averaged to create anatomical templates. Circumferential, radial, and axial strains for each disc were transformed to the average templates, effectively normalizing the strains. Five circumferential regions were defined within the mid-third of the templates. Nucleotomy altered disc strains on both the incision and uninjured sides from the intact state. Strain fields were inhomogeneous through the five regions. Mean circumferential strain was unaffected by nucleotomy on the uninjured side, but decreased with incision, showing hoop strains through the AF were disrupted. Mean compressive axial strains were higher after nucleotomy, effectively reducing AF stiffness, and mean radial strains were unaltered after partial nucleotomy. These findings are important to address etiology and progression of degeneration, and to develop and evaluate therapeutic interventions.
Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering, Biomechanics, Orthopedic Research

Human cadaveric bi-Segment impact experiments at different postures

Victims of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have presented spinal injury in recent conflicts have been shown to have a high incidence of lumbar spine fractures. Previous studies have shown that the initial positioning of spinal bone-disc-bone complexes affects their biomechanical response when loaded quasi-statically; such a correlation, however, has not been explored at appropriate high loading rate scenarios that simulate injury. This study aims to investigate the response of lumbar spine cadaveric segments in different postures under axial impact conditions. Three T11-L1 bi-segments were dissected and tested destructively in a drop tower under flexed/neutral/extended postures. Strains were measured on the vertebral body and the spinous process of T12. Forces were measured cranially using a 6-axis load cell, and a high-speed camera was used to capture displacements and fracture. The impacted specimens were CT-scanned to identify the fracture pattern. Whilst axial force to failure was similar for flexed and extended postures, the non-axial forces and the bending moments, however, were dissimilar between postures. Although all specimens showed a burst fracture pattern, the extended posture failed more posteriorly. This suggests that axial force alone is not adequate to predict injury severity in the lumbar spine. This insight would not have been possible without the use of the 6-axis load cell. As metrics for spinal injury in surrogates take into account only the axial force, this programme of work may provide data for a better injury criterion and allow for a mechanistic understanding of the effects of posture on injury risk.
Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering, Biomechanics, Mechanical Engineering, Orthopedic Research