Ying Lu, Chaoyang Chen, Srinivasu Kallakuri, Ajit Patwardhan, John M. Cavanaugh

February 2005, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 565 - 572 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-004-0835-9

First Online: 03 February 2005

Facet joint capsules (FJC) may experience large mechanical deformation under spine motion. There has been no previous quantitative study of the relationship between capsular strain and sensory nerve activation in spine FJC in vivo. Space limitation in the cervical spine makes such a study difficult, as the facet joint must be loaded while simultaneously monitoring nerve discharge from nerve roots immediately adjacent to the loaded tissue. A new methodology was developed to investigate biomechanical and neurophysiological properties of spine facet joint capsules in vivo. The method incorporated a custom-fabricated testing frame for facet joint loading, a stereoimaging system, and a template-matching technique to obtain single afferent response. It was tested by loading goat C5–C6 FJC in vivo with simultaneous nerve root recordings and 3D strain tracking of the capsules. Preliminary data showed that 18 of 23 afferents (78.3%) were found to be mechanosensitive to tensile stretch, and five were not responsive, even under tensile load as high as 27.5 N. Mechanosensitive afferents in goat capsules had tensile strain thresholds of 0.119±0.080. Neural responses of all mechanosensitive units showed statistically significant correlations (all P<<0.05) with both capsular load (r 2=0.744±0.109) and local strain (r 2=0.868±0.088). This method enables the investigation of the correlation between tissue load, deformation and neural responses of mechanoreceptors in spine facet joint capsules, and can be adapted to investigate tissue loading and neural response of other soft tissues.

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