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Mathematics - Neurological Disorders - Physiology - Surgery

Finite Element Study of the Mechanical Response in Spinal Cord during the Thoracolumbar Burst Fracture
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Author: Ya-Bo Yan et al.

by Ya-Bo Yan, Wei Qi, Zi-Xiang Wu, Tian-Xia Qiu, Ee-Chon Teo, Wei Lei


The mechanical response of the spinal cord during burst fracture was seldom quantitatively addressed and only few studies look into the internal strain of the white and grey matters within the spinal cord during thoracolumbar burst fracture (TLBF). The aim of the study is to investigate the mechanical response of the spinal cord during TLBF and correlate the percent canal compromise (PCC) with the strain in the spinal cord.

Methodology/Principal Findings

A three-dimensional (3D) finite element (FE) model of human T12-L1 spinal cord with visco-elastic property was generated based on the transverse sections images of spinal cord, and the model was validated against published literatures under static uniaxial tension and compression. With the validated model, a TLBF simulation was performed to compute the mechanical strain in the spinal cord with the PCC. Linear regressions between PCC and strain in the spinal cord show that at the initial stage, with the PCC at 20%, and 45%, the corresponding mechanical strains in ventral grey, dorsal grey, ventral white, dorsal white matters were 0.06, 0.04, 0.12, 0.06, and increased to 0.14, 0.12, 0.23, and 0.13, respectively. At the recoiled stage, when the PCC was decreased from 45% to 20%, the corresponding strains were reduced to 0.03, 0.02, 0.04 and 0.03. The strain was correlated well with PCC.


The simulation shows that the strain in the spinal cord correlated well with the PCC, and the mechanical strains in the ventral regions are higher than those in the dorsal regions of spinal cord tissue during burst fracture, suggesting that the ventral regions of the spinal cord may susceptible to injury than the dorsal regions.