Study Design. A novel noninvasive approach to measure facet joint pressure in the cervical spine was investigated using a tip-mounted transducer that can be inserted through a hole in the bony lateral mass. This technique is advantageous because it does not require resection of the joint capsule, but there are potential issues regarding its applicability that are addressed.
Objective. The objective was to evaluate the effect of a tip-mounted pressure probe's position and orientation on contact pressure measurements in biomechanical experiments.
Summary of Background Data. Measurements of direct contact pressure in the facet joint of cadaveric spines have been obtained via pressure-sensitive films. However, that method requires the resection of the facet capsule, which can alter the overall joint's mechanical behavior and can affect the measured contact pressures.
Methods. Influence of position and orientation on probe measurements was evaluated in companion surrogate and cadaveric investigations. The probe was placed in the facet of an anatomic vertebral C4/5 surrogate undergoing sagittal bending moments. Pressure-sensitive paper was used to map contact regions in the joint of the surrogate and cadaveric cervical segments (n = 3) during extension. The probe also underwent uniaxial compression in cadaveric facets to evaluate the effect of orientation relative to the contact surface on the probe signal.
Results. Although experimental and theoretical pressure profiles followed the same trends, measured maximum pressures were half of the theoretical ones. In the orientation study, maximum pressures were not different for probe orientations of 0° and 5°, but no signal was recorded at orientations greater than 15°.
Conclusion. This approach to measure pressure was selected to provide a minimally-invasive method to quantify facet joint pressures during clinically relevant applications. Both the position and orientation of the probe are critical factors in monitoring local pressure profiles in this mobile synovial joint.