Numerical Modeling of a Ligamentous Lumbar Motion Segment
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Eight out of ten people in the United States will have problems with low back pain at some point in their life. The most significant surgical treatments for low back pain can be distributed into two main groups of solutions: arthrodesis and arthroplasty. Spinal arthrodesis consists of the fusion of a degenerated functional spine unit (FSU) to alleviate pain and prevent mechanical instability. Spinal arthroplasty consists of the implantation of an artificial disc to restore the functionality of the degenerated FSU. The objective of this study is to analyze and compare the alteration of the biomechanics of the lumbar spine treated either by arthrodesis or arthroplasty. A three-dimensional finite element model of a ligamentous lumbar motion segment, constituted of two FSUs, was built and simulated through a static analysis with the finite element software ABAQUS. It was shown that the mobility of the segment treated by arthrodesis was reduced in all rotational degrees of freedom by an average of approximately 44%, relative to the healthy model. Conversely, the mobility of the segment treated by arthroplasty was increased in all rotational degrees of freedom by an average of approximately 52%. The FSU implanted with the artificial disc showed a high risk of instability and further degeneration. The mobility and the stresses in the healthy FSU, adjacent to the restored FSU in the segment treated by arthroplasty, were also increased. In conclusion, the simulation of the arthroplasty model showed more risks of instability and further degeneration, on the treated level as well as on the adjacent levels, than in the arthrodesis model.