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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2001 Apr 15;26(8):876-82.

Morphologic changes in the lumbar intervertebral foramen due to flexion-extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation: an in vitro anatomic and biomechanical study.

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1
Department of Radiology, Wisconsin University Hospital and Clinics, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

Abstract

STUDY DESIGN:

A biomechanical and anatomic study with human cadaveric lumbar spine.

OBJECTIVES:

The purpose of this study is to examine the morphologic changes in the intervertebral foramen during flexion, extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation of the lumbar spine and to correlate these changes with the flexibility of the spinal motion segments.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA:

Previous studies showed morphologic changes in the intervertebral foramen during flexion and extension; however, those changes during lateral bending and axial rotation were not well known.

METHODS:

There were 81 motion segments obtained from 39 human cadaveric lumbar spines (mean age 69 years). The motion segments were imaged with CT scanner with 1-mm thick consecutive sections. For biomechanical testing each motion segment was applied with incremental pure moments of flexion, extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation. Rotational movements of the motion segment were measured using VICON cameras. After application of the last load, the specimens were frozen under load, and then CT was performed with the same technique described above. Six parameters of the intervertebral foramen were measured, including foraminal width (maximum and minimum), foraminal height, disc bulging, thickness of ligamentum flavum, and cross-sectional area of the foramen.

RESULTS:

Flexion increased the foraminal width (maximum and minimum), height, and area significantly while significantly decreasing the disc bulging and thickness of ligamentum flavum (P < 0.05). However, extension decreased the foraminal width (maximum and minimum), height, and area significantly. Lateral bending significantly decreased the foraminal width (maximum and minimum), height, and area at the bending side, whereas lateral bending significantly increased the foraminal width (minimum), height, and area at the opposite side of bending. Likewise, axial rotation decreased the foraminal width (minimum) and area at the rotation side significantly while significantly increasing the foraminal height and foraminal area at the opposite side. The percent change in the foraminal area was found significantly correlated with the amount of segmental spinal motion except for the extension motion.

CONCLUSIONS:

This study showed that the intervertebral foramen of the lumbar spine changed significantly not only on flexion-extension but also on lateral bending and axial rotation. The percent change in cross-sectional foraminal area was correlated with the amount of segmental motion except for extension motions. Further studies are needed to assess the morphologic changes in the intervertebral foramen in vivo and to correlate clinically.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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