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Comparison of Intervertebral ROM in Multi-Level Cadaveric Lumbar Spines Using Distinct Pure Moment Loading Approaches

Brandon Santoni PhD,1 Andres F Cabezas ME,1 Daniel J Cook, MS,2 Matthew S Yeager, BS,2 James B Billys, BA,2 Benjamin Whiting, BA,2 Boyle C Cheng PhD2

1Foundation for Orthopaedic Research & Education, Tampa, FL 2Allegheny Health Network, Department of Neurosurgery, Pittsburgh, PA



Pure-moment loading is the test method of choice for spinal implant evaluation. However, the apparatuses and boundary conditions employed by laboratories in performing spine flexibility testing vary. The purpose of this study was to quantify the differences, if they exist, in intervertebral range of motion (ROM) resulting from different pure-moment loading apparatuses used in two laboratories.


Twenty-four (laboratory A) and forty-two (laboratory B) intact L1-S1 specimens were loaded using pure moments (±7.5 Nm) in flexion-extension (FE), lateral bending (LB) and axial torsion (AT). At laboratory A, pure moments were applied using a system of cables, pulleys and suspended weights in 1.5 Nm increments. At laboratory B, specimens were loaded in a pneumatic biaxial test frame mounted with counteracting stepper-motor-driven biaxial gimbals. ROM was obtained in both labs using identical optoelectronic systems and compared.


In FE, total L1-L5 ROM was similar, on average, between the two laboratories (lab A: 37.4˚ ± 9.1˚; lab B: 35.0˚ ± 8.9˚, p=0.289). Larger apparent differences, on average, were noted between labs in AT (lab A: 19.4˚ ± 7.3˚; lab B: 15.7˚ ± 7.1˚, p=0.074), and this finding was significant for combined right and left LB (lab A: 45.5˚ ± 11.4˚; lab B: 35.3˚ ± 8.5˚, p<0.001).


To our knowledge, this is the first study comparing ROM of multi-segment lumbar spines between laboratories utilizing different apparatuses. The results of this study show that intervertebral ROM in multi-segment lumbar spine constructs are markedly similar in FE loading. Differences in boundary conditions are likely the source of small and sometimes statistically significant differences between the two techniques in LB and AT ROM. The relative merits of each testing strategy with regard to the physiologic conditions that are to be simulated should be considered in the design of a study including LB and AT modes of loading. An understanding of these differences also serves as important information when comparing study results across different laboratories.

lumbar spine, biomechanics, pure moment loading, range of motion, testing apparatus
Volume 9 Article 32 - Biomechanics Special Issue