Pediatric cervical spine biomechanics have been under-researched due to the limited availability of pediatric post-mortem human subjects (PMHS). Scaled data based on human adult and juvenile animal studies have been utilized to augment the limited pediatric PMHS data that exists. Despite these efforts, a significant void in pediatric cervical spine biomechanics remains. Eighteen PMHS osteoligamentous head-neck complexes ranging in age from 20 weeks gestational to 14 years were tested in tension. The tests were initially conducted on the whole cervical spine and then the spines were sectioned into three segments that included two lower cervical spine segments (C4-C5 and C6-C7) and one upper cervical spine segment (O-C2). After non-destructive tests were conducted, each segment was failed in tension. The tensile stiffness of the whole spines ranged from 5.3 to 70.1 N/mm. The perinatal and neonatal specimens had an ultimate strength for the upper cervical spine of 230.9 ± 38.0 N and for the lower cervical spine of 212.8 ± 60.9 and 187.1 ± 39.4 N for the C4-C5 and C6-C7 segments, respectively. The lower cervical segments were significantly weaker and stiffer than the upper cervical spine segments in the older cohort. For the entire cohort of specimens, the stiffness of the upper cervical spine ranged from 7.1 to 199.0 N/mm. The tolerance ranged from 173.6 to 2960 N for the upper cervical spine and from 142 to 1757 N for the lower. There was a statistically significant increase in stiffness and strength with age. The results also suggest that juvenile animal surrogates estimate the stiffness of the human cervical spine fairly well; however, they may not provide accurate estimates of pediatric cervical spine strength.
Keywords: pediatric; child; PMHS; tension; stiffness; tolerance; animal models; human; motion segment; whole spine