Study Design: The failure responses of the anterior longitudinal ligament, posterior longitudinal ligament, and ligamentum flavum were examined in vitro under large strain-rate mechanical loading.
Objective: To quantify the failure properties for 3 cervical spinal ligaments at strain rates associated with traumatic events.
Summary of Background Data: There exists little experimentation literature for fast- rate loading of the cervical spine ligaments. The small amount of available information is framed only in extensive experimental coordinates, and not in the context of strains.
Methods: Bone-ligament-bone complexes were strained at fast rates, in an incrementally increasing loading protocol using a servohydraulic mechanical test frame. Failure loads and displacements were converted to engineering and true stress and strain values, and compared for the different ligaments (anterior longitudinal ligament, posterior longitudinal ligament, and ligamentum flavum), spinal levels (C3–C4, C5–C6, and C7–T1), and for male versus female specimens.
Results: There were no significant differences in force or true stress for gender or spinal level. There was a significant difference in force and true stress for ligament type. A difference was found between the posterior longitudinal ligament and ligamentum flavum for failure force, and between the ligamentum flavum and both the anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments for failure true stress. No significant differences were found in true strain for ligament, gender, or spinal level. The mean ligament failure true strain was 0.81. Failure true strains were approximately 57% of the failure engineering strains.
Conclusions: Once the injury mechanisms of the cervical spine are fully understood, computational models can be employed to understand the potentially traumatic effects of clinical procedures, and mitigate injury in impact, falls, and other high-rate scenarios. The soft tissue failure properties in this study can be used to develop failure tolerances in fast-rate loading scenarios. Failure properties of the anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments were similar, and the same properties can be used to model both ligaments.