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Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2005 Dec;20(10):1046-54. Epub 2005 Aug 15.

Vertebral fractures and separations of endplates after traumatic loading of adolescent porcine spines with experimentally-induced disc degeneration.

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Department of Orthopaedics, The Sahlgrenska Academy at Göteborg University and Sahlgrenska University Hospital, SE-416 45 Göteborg, Sweden.



Abnormalities of the intervertebral discs have been found in a high frequency among young elite athletes. Several studies have also reported that the adolescent spine, especially the vertebral growth zones, is vulnerable to trauma. However, there is incomplete knowledge regarding the injury mechanism of the growing spine. In this study, the injury patterns of the adolescent porcine spine with disc degeneration were examined.


Twenty-four male pigs were used. A degenerative disc was created by drilling a hole through the cranial endplate of a lumbar vertebra into the disc. Two months later the animals were sacrificed and the degenerative functional spinal units (segments) were harvested. The segments were divided into three groups and exposed to axial compression, flexion compression or extension compression to failure. The load and angle at failure were measured for each group. The segments were examined with magnetic resonance imaging and plain radiography before and after the loading and finally examined macroscopically and histologically.


The degenerated segments required considerably more compressive load to failure than non-degenerated segments. Creating a flexion injury required significantly more load than an extension injury. Fractures and/or separations of the endplates from the vertebral bodies were seen at the margins of the endplates and in the growth zone. Only severe separations and fractures could be seen on plain radiography and magnetic resonance imaging.


The weakest part of the adolescent porcine lumbar spine with experimentally-induced degeneration, when loaded in axial compression, flexion compression or extension compression, was the growth zone, and, to a lesser extent, the endplate. Degenerated discs seem to withstand higher mechanical loads than non-degenerated discs, probably due to altered stress distribution.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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