Tobias L. Schulte, Christof Hurschler, Marcel Haversath, Ulf Liljenqvist, Viola Bullmann, Timm J. Filler, Nani Osada, Eva-Maria Fallenberg, Lars Hackenberg

August 2008, Volume 17, Issue 8, pp 1057 - 1065 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-008-0667-0

First Online: 01 August 2008

Undercutting decompression is a common surgical procedure for the therapy of lumbar spinal canal stenosis. Segmental instability, due to segmental degeneration or iatrogenic decompression is a typical problem that is clinically addressed by fusion, or more recently by semi-rigid stabilization devices. The objective of this experimental biomechanical study was to investigate the influence of spinal decompression alone, as well as in conjunction with two semi-rigid stabilizing implants (Wallis, Dynesys®) on the range of motion (ROM) of lumbar spine segments. A total of 21 fresh-frozen human lumbar spine motion segments were obtained. Range of motion and neutral zone (NZ) were measured in flexion-extension (FE), lateral bending (LAT) and axial rotation (ROT) for each motion segment under four conditions: (1) with all stabilizing structures intact (PHY), (2) after bilateral undercutting decompression (UDC), (3) after additional implantation of Wallis (UDC-W) and (4) after removal of Wallis and subsequent implantation of Dynesys® (UDC-D). Measurements were performed using a sensor-guided industrial robot in a pure-moment-loading mode. Range of motion was defined as the angle covered between loadings of −5 and +5 Nm during the last of three applied motion cycles. Untreated physiologic segments showed the following mean ROM: FE 6.6°, LAT 7.4°, ROT 3.9°. After decompression, a significant increase of ROM was observed: 26% FE, 6% LAT, 12% ROT. After additional implantation of a semi-rigid device, a decrease in ROM compared to the situation after decompression alone was observed with a reduction of 66 and 75% in FE, 6 and 70% in LAT, and 5 and 22% in ROT being observed for the Wallis and Dynesys®, respectively. When the flexion and extension contribution to ROM was separated, the Wallis implant restricted extension by 69% and flexion by 62%, the Dynesys® by 73 and 75%, respectively. Compared to the intact status, instrumentation following decompression led to a ROM reduction of 58 and 68% in FE, 1 and 68% in LAT, −6 and 13% in ROT, 61 and 65% in extension and 54 and 70% in flexion for Wallis and Dynesys®. The effect of the implants on NZ corresponded to that on ROM. In conclusion, implantation of the Wallis and Dynesys® devices following decompression leads to a restriction of ROM in all motion planes investigated. Flexion–extension is most affected by both implants. The Dynesys® implant leads to an additional strong restriction in lateral bending. Rotation is only mildly affected by both implants. Wallis and Dynesys® restrict not only isolated extension, but also flexion. These biomechanical results support the hypothesis that postoperatively, the semi-rigid implants provide a primary stabilizing function directly. Whether they can improve the clinical outcome must still be verified in prospective clinical investigations.

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