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Biomechanical Comparison of Robotically Applied Pure Moment, Ideal Follower Load, and Novel Trunk Weight Loading Protocols on L4-L5 Cadaveric Segments during Flexion-Extension

Charles R. Bennett, MS,1 Denis J. DiAngelo, PhD,1 Brian P. Kelly, PhD2

1Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Biomedical Engineering, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis TN, 2Division of Neurological Surgery, Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, AZ



Extremely few in-vitro biomechanical studies have incorporated shear loads leaving a gap for investigation, especially when applied in combination with compression and bending under dynamic conditions. The objective of this study was to biomechanically compare sagittal plane application of two standard protocols, pure moment (PM) and follower load (FL), with a novel trunk weight (TW) loading protocol designed to induce shear in combination with compression and dynamic bending in a neutrally potted human cadaveric L4-L5 motion segment unit (MSU) model. A secondary objective and novelty of the current study was the application of all three protocols within the same testing system serving to reduce artifacts due to testing system variability. 


Six L4-L5 segments were tested in a Cartesian load controlled system in flexion-extension to 8Nm under PM, simulated ideal 400N FL, and vertically oriented 400N TW loading protocols. Comparison metrics used were rotational range of motion (RROM), flexibility, neutral zone (NZ) range of motion, and L4 vertebral body displacements.


Significant differences in vertebral body translations were observed with different initial force applications but not with subsequent bending moment application. Significant reductions were observed in combined flexion-extension RROM, in flexibility during extension, and in NZ region flexibility with the TW loading protocol as compared to PM loading. Neutral zone ranges of motion were not different between all protocols. 


The combined compression and shear forces applied across the spinal joint in the trunk weight protocol may have a small but significantly increased stabilizing effect on segment flexibility and kinematics during sagittal plane flexion and extension. 

biomechanics, Robotics, spine, Lumbar, Load Control, Force Control, Displacement Control, Methodology, Cartesian, Mechanical testing, Six Degrees of Freedom, Follower Load, Trunk Weight, Pure Moment, Protocol Comparison
Volume 9 Article 33 - Biomechanics Special Issue