Gerhard A. Holzapfel, Michael Stadler

May 2005, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 849 - 856 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-004-0874-2

First Online: 24 May 2005

The curvature of vertebral facet joints may play an important role in the study of load-bearing characteristics and clinical interventions such as graded facetectomy. In previously-published finite element simulations of this procedure, the curvature was either neglected or approximated with a varying degree of accuracy. Here we study the effect of the curvature in three different load situations by using a numerical model which is able to represent the actual curvature without any loss of accuracy. The results show that previously-used approximations of the curvature lead to good results in the analysis of sagittal moment/rotation. However, for sagittal shear-force/displacement and for the contact stress distribution, previous results deviate significantly from our results. These findings are supported through related convergence studies. Hence we can conclude that in order to obtain reliable results for the analysis of sagittal shear-force/displacement and the contact stress distribution in the facet joint, the curvature must not be neglected. This is of particular importance for the numerical simulation of the spine, which may lead to improved diagnostics, effective surgical planning and intervention. The proposed method may represent a more reliable basis for optimizing the biomedical engineering design for tissue engineering or, for example, for spinal implants.

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