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In Vivo Facet Joint Loading of the Canine Lumbar Spine

BUTTERMANN, GLENN R., MD; SCHENDEL, MICHAEL J., PhD; KAHMANN, RICHARD D., MD; LEWIS, JACK L., PhD; BRADFORD, DAVID S., MD

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This study describes a technique to measure in vivo loads and the resultant load-contact locations in the facet joint of the canine lumbar spine. The technique is a modification of a previously described in vitro method that used calibrated surface strains of the lateral aspect of the right L3 cranial articular process. In the present study, strains were measured during various in vivo static and dynamic activities 3 days after strain gage implantation. The in vivo recording technique and its errors, which depend on the location of the applied facet loads, is described. The results of applying the technique to five dogs gave the following results. Relative resultant contact load locations on the facet tended to be in the central and caudal portion of the facet in extension activities, central and cranial in standing, and cranial and ventral in flexion or right-turning activities. Right-lurning contact locations were ventral and cranial to left-turning locations. Resultant load locations at peak loading during walking were in the central region of the facet, whereas resultant load locations at minimum loading during walking were relatively craniad. This resultant load-contact location during a walk gait cycle typically migrated in an arc with a displacement of 4 mm from minimum to maximum loading. Static tests resulted in a range of facet loads of 0 N in flexion and lying to 185 N for two-legged standing erect, and stand resulted in facet loads of 26 ± 15 N (mean ± standard deviation [SD]). Dynamic tests resulted in peak facet loads ranging from 55 N while walking erect to 170 N for climbing up stairs. Maximum walk facet loads were 107 ± 27 N. The technique is applicable to in vivo studies of a canine facet joint osteoarthritis model and may be useful for establishing an understanding of the biomechanics of low-back pain.

Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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