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Traffic Inj Prev. 2018 Feb 28;19(sup1):S29-S36. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2017.1403017.

Influence of morphological variations on cervical spine segmental responses from inertial loading.

Author information

a Department of Neurosurgery , Medical College of Wisconsin , Milwaukee , Wisconsin.
b Department of Engineering Design , Indian Institute of Technology Madras , Chennai , India.
c Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Medical College of Wisconsin , Milwaukee , Wisconsin.



The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of morphological variations in osteoligamentous lower cervical spinal segment responses under postero-anterior inertial loading.


A parametric finite element model of the C5-C6 spinal segment was used to generate models. Variations in the vertebral body and facet depth (anteroposterior), posterior process length, intervertebral disc height, facet articular process height and slope, segment orientation ranging from lordotic to straight, and segment size were parameterized. These variations included male-female differences. A Latin hypercube sampling method was used to select parameter values for model generation. Forces and moments associated with the inertial loading were applied to the generated model segments. The 7 parameters were grouped as local or global depending on the number of spinal components involved in the shape variation. Four output responses representing overall segmental and soft tissue responses were analyzed for each model variation: response angle of the segment, anterior longitudinal ligament stretch, anterior capsular ligament stretch, and facet joint compression in the posterior region. Pearson's correlation coefficient was used to compute the correlations of these output responses with morphological variations.


Fifty models were generated from the parameterized model using a Latin hypercube sampling technique. Variation in response angle among the models was 4° and was most influenced by change in the combined dimension of vertebral body and facet depth, followed by size of the segment. The maximum anterior longitudinal ligament stretch varied between 0.1 and 0.3 and was strongly influenced by the change in the segment orientation. The anterior facet joint region sustained tension, whereas the posterior region sustained compression. For the anterior capsular ligament stretch, the most influential global variation was segment orientation, whereas the most influential local variations were the facet height and facet angle parameters. In the case of posterior facet joint compression, segment orientation was again most influential, whereas among the local variations, the facet angle had the most influence.


Shape variations in the intervertebral disc influenced segmental rotation and ligament responses; however, the influence of shape variations in the facet joint was confined to capsular ligament responses. Response angle was most influenced by the vertebral body depth variations, explaining greater segmental rotations in female spines. Straighter spine segments sustained greater posterior facet joint compression, which may offer an explanation for the higher incidence of whiplash-associated disorders among females, who exhibit a straighter cervical spine. The anterior longitudinal ligament stretch was also greater in straighter segments. These findings indicate that the morphological features specific to the anatomy of the female cervical spine may predispose it to injury under inertial loading.


Cervical spine; finite element analysis; gender differences; morphology; parametric model; sensitivity analysis; whiplash

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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