Intervertebral disc degeneration relates to biomechanical changes of spinal ligaments
- Journal Article
Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
BACKGROUND CONTEXT: The ligamentum flavum (LF), the inter- and supraspinous ligament (ISL&SSL) and the intertransverse ligament (ITL) are relevant spinal structures for segmental stability. The biomechanical effect of degeneration and aging on their biomechanical properties remains largely unknown. PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to assess the material properties of the ITL, ISL&SSL and LF and to correlate parameters of biomechanical function with LF-thickness, intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration and age. STUDY DESIGN: Biomechanical cadaveric study. METHODS: MRI- and CT-scans of 50 human lumbar segments (Th12-L5) were used to assess the ISL (acc. to Keorochana), the grade of IVD degeneration (acc. to Pfirrmann) and to quantify LF-thickness. The ITL, ISL&SSL and LF were resected in the neutral position of the spinal segment with a specifically developed method to conserve initial strain. Ramp to failure testing was performed (0.5 mm/s) to record initial tension, slack length, stiffness and ultimate strength. The relationship between the biomechanical characteristics and age and radiological parameters were analyzed. There are no study-specific conflicts of interest and no external funding was received for this study. RESULTS: With aging, a significant reduction in initial tension (r=-0.5, p<.01) and ultimate strength (r=-0.41, p<.01) of the LF was observed, while the effect on LF-stiffness and the characteristics of the other ligaments was non-significant. IVD-degeneration was correlated with a significant reduction in stiffness (r=-0.47, p=.001; r=-0.36, p=.01) and ultimate strength (r=-0.3, p=.04; r=-0.36, p=.01) of the LF and ISL&SSL respectively and a significant reduction in initial tension (r=-0.4, p<.01) of the LF. For the ITL, no significant correlation was observed. Comparing Pfirrman 2 to 5, this reduction was 40% to 80% for stiffness 60% to 70% for ultimate strength and 88% for initial tension of the LF. ISL&SSL-stiffness between Kerorochana grade A and D differed significantly (p=.03), while all other comparisons were non-significant (p>.05). LF-thickness did not correlate with the biomechanical properties of the LF (p>.05). CONCLUSIONS: Aging is primarily related to biomechanical changes to the LF. IVD-degeneration is related to a relevant reduction in stiffness and ultimate strength of the LF and ISL&SSL, with a similar trend for the ITL. The ISL-specific Keorochana grading system provides only minimal biomechanical information and LF-thickness does not provide biomechanical information. CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Patient age and the degenerative state of the IVD can be used to evaluate the biomechanical characteristics of the dorsal spinal ligaments, which can be helpful in selecting the optimal surgical procedure (e.g. in decompression surgery) for a specific situation. Show more
Journal / seriesThe Spine Journal
Pages / Article No.
SubjectDorsal ligaments; Spine; Degeneration; Mechanical properties
Organisational unit03822 - Snedeker, Jess G. / Snedeker, Jess G.
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