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Biomechanical evaluation of a spherical lumbar interbody device at varying levels of subsidence

Steven A. Rundell, MS,1,2 Jorge E. Isaza, MD,3 Steven M. Kurtz, PhD1,2

1Exponent, Inc, Philadelphia, PA 2Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA 3Tulane University, New Orleans, LA


Ulf Fernström implanted stainless steel ball bearings following discectomy, or for painful disc disease, and termed this procedure disc arthroplasty. Today, spherical interbody spacers are clinically available, but there is a paucity of associated biomechanical testing. The primary objective of the current study was to evaluate the biomechanics of a spherical interbody implant. It was hypothesized that implantation of a spherical interbody implant, with combined subsidence into the vertebral bodies, would result in similar ranges of motion (RoM) and facet contact forces (FCFs) when compared with an intact condition. A secondary objective of this study was to determine the effect of using a polyetheretherketone (PEEK) versus a cobalt chrome (CoCr) implant on vertebral body strains. We hypothesized that the material selection would have a negligible effect on vertebral body strains since both materials have elastic moduli substantially greater than the annulus.


A finite element model of L3-L4 was created and validated by use of ROM, disc pressure, and bony strain from previously published data. Virtual implantation of a spherical interbody device was performed with 0, 2, and 4 mm of subsidence. The model was exercised in compression, flexion, extension, axial rotation, and lateral bending. The ROM, vertebral body effective (von Mises) strain, and FCFs were reported.


Implantation of a PEEK implant resulted in slightly lower strain maxima when compared with a CoCr implant. For both materials, the peak strain experienced by the underlying bone was reduced with increasing subsidence. All levels of subsidence resulted in ROM and FCFs similar to the intact model.


The results suggest that a simple spherical implant design is able to maintain segmental ROM and provide minimal differences in FCFs. Large areas of von Mises strain maxima were generated in the bone adjacent to the implant regardless of whether the implant was PEEK or CoCr.

Lumbar, Finite element, Spine biomechanics, arthroplasty, subsidence, Facet contact
Volume 5 Issue 1