Study Design: A uniaxial tensile loading study of 13 lumbar porcine ligaments under varying environmental temperature conditions.
Objectives: To investigate a possible temperature dependence of the material behavior of porcine lumbar anterior longitudinal ligaments.
Summary of Background Data: Temperature dependence of the mechanical material properties of ligament has not been conclusively established.
Methods: The anterior longitudinal ligaments (ALLs) from domestic pigs (n = 5) were loaded in tension to 20% strain using a protocol that included fast ramp/hold and sinusoidal tests. These ligaments were tested at temperatures of 37.8°C, 29.4°C, 21.1°C, 12.8°C, and 4.4°C. The temperatures were controlled to within 0.6°C, and ligament hydration was maintained with a humidifier inside the test chamber and by spraying 0.9% saline onto the ligament. A viscoelastic model was used to characterize the force response of the ligaments.
Results: The testing indicated that the ALL has strong temperature dependence. As temperature decreased, the peak forces increased for similar input peak strains and strain rates. The relaxation of the ligaments was similar at each temperature and showed only weak temperature dependence. Predicted behavior using the viscoelastic model compared well with the actual data (R2 values ranging from 0.89 to 0.99). A regression analysis performed on the viscoelastic model coefficients confirmed that relaxation coefficients were only weakly temperature dependent while the instantaneous elastic function coefficients were strongly temperature dependent.
Conclusions: The experiment demonstrated that the viscoelastic mechanical response of the porcine ligament is dependent on the temperature at which it is tested; the force response of the ligament increased as the temperature decreased. This conclusion also applies to human ligaments owing to material and structural similarity. This result settles a controversy on the temperature dependence of ligament in the available literature. The ligament viscoelastic model shows a significant temperature dependence on the material properties; instantaneous elastic force was clearly temperature dependent while the relaxation response was only weakly temperature dependent. This result suggests that temperature dependence should be considered when testing ligaments and developing material models for in vivo force response, and further suggests that previously published material property values derived from room temperature testing may not adequately represent in vivo response. These findings have clinical relevance in the increased susceptibility of ligamentous injury in the cold and in assessing the mechanical behavior of cold extremities and extremities with limited vascular perfusion such as those of the elderly.