Objective: The study determined the effect of variations in the material properties of the cervical spinal components on the output of the finite element analysis (external and internal responses of the cervical spine) under physiologic load vectors.
Design: A three-dimensional (3D) anatomically accurate finite element model comprising of the C4-C5-C6 cervical spine unit including the three vertebrae, two interconnecting intervertebral discs, and the anterior and posterior ligament complex is used. Background. The effect of material property variations of spinal components on the human lumbar spine biomechanics is extensively studied However, a similar investigation of the cervical spine is lacking.
Methods: Parametric studies on the variations in the material properties of all the cervical spine components including the cortical shell, cancellous core, endplates, intervertebral disc, posterior elements and ligaments were conducted by exercising the 3D finite element model under flexion, extension, lateral bending and axial torsion loading modes. Low, basic and high material property cases for each of the six components under all the four physiologic loading modes were considered in the finite element analysis. A total of 432 results were evaluated to analyze the external angular rotation, and the internal stresses in the middle vertebral body, the superior and inferior endplates and the two intervertebral discs.
Results: Variations in the material properties of the different cervical spinal components produced dissimilar changes in the external and internal responses. Variations in the material properties of the cancellous core, cortical shell, endplates and posterior element structures representing the hard tissues did not affect the external angular motion, and the internal stresses of the inferior and superior intervertebral discs under all four loading modes. In contrast, variations in the material properties of the intervertebral disc and ligament structures representing the soft tissues significantly altered the angular motion, and the stresses in the inferior and superior intervertebral discs of the cervical spine.
Conclusion: The material properties of the soft tissue structures have a preponderant effect on the external and internal responses of the cervical spine compared with the changes in the material properties of the hard tissue structures.