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The Cortical Shell Architecture of Human Cervical Vertebral Bodies

Panjabi, Manohar M., PhD; Chen, Neal C., BS; Shin, Eon K., BA; Wang, Jaw-Lin, PhD


Study Design.  An anatomic study of cervical vertebral bodies.

Objectives.  To provide quantitative information on the cortical shell architecture of the middle and lower cervical vertebral bodies.

Summary of Background Data.  Some external dimensions have been measured, but little quantitative data exists for the cortical shell architecture of the vertebral bodies of the cervical spine.

Methods.  Twenty-one human cervical vertebral bodies (C3–C7) were sectioned along parasagittal planes into five 1.7-mm thin slices for each vertebra. Radiographs of each slice were digitized, and external and internal dimensions were measured. Averages and standard deviations were computed. Single factor analysis of variance was used to determine significant (P < 0.05) differences between the vertebral levels.

Results.  The superior endplate was thickest in the posterior region (range 0.74–0.89 mm) and thinnest in the anterior region (range 0.44–0.56 mm). The inferior endplate was thickest in the anterior region (range 0.61–0.81 mm) and thinnest in the posterior region (range 0.49–0.62 mm). In the central region, the superior endplate (range 0.42–0.58 mm) was thinner than the inferior endplate (range 0.53–0.64 mm). Variation with vertebral level was dependent on the dimension studied.

Conclusions.  Comprehensive quantitative anatomic data of the middle and lower cervical vertebral bodies have been obtained. This may be useful in improving the understanding of the three-column and other vertebral-fracture theories, the fidelity of the finite element models of cervical spine, and the designs of surgical instrumentation.

From the Biomechanics Research Laboratory, Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.

Supported in part by NIH grant R01-AR45452 and the Yale University Medical Fellowship Program.

Acknowledgment date: October 19, 2000.

First revision date: March 8, 2001.

Acceptance date: April 24, 2001.

Device status category: 1.

Conflict of interest category: 12.

Address reprint requests to

Manohar M. Panjabi, PhD

Biomechanics Laboratory

Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation

Yale University School of Medicine

P.O. Box 208071

New Haven, CT 06510


© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.