Michael N. Tzermiadianos, Susan M. Renner, Frank M. Phillips, Alexander G. Hadjipavlou, Michael R. Zindrick, Robert M. Havey, Michael Voronov, Avinash G. Patwardhan

November 2008, Volume 17, Issue 11, pp 1522 - 1530 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-008-0775-x

First Online: 16 September 2008

This study investigated the effect of endplate deformity after an osteoporotic vertebral fracture in increasing the risk for adjacent vertebral fractures. Eight human lower thoracic or thoracolumbar specimens, each consisting of five vertebrae were used. To selectively fracture one of the endplates of the middle VB of each specimen a void was created under the target endplate and the specimen was flexed and compressed until failure. The fractured vertebra was subjected to spinal extension under 150 N preload that restored the anterior wall height and vertebral kyphosis, while the fractured endplate remained significantly depressed. The VB was filled with cement to stabilize the fracture, after complete evacuation of its trabecular content to ensure similar cement distribution under both the endplates. Specimens were tested in flexion-extension under 400 N preload while pressure in the discs and strain at the anterior wall of the adjacent vertebrae were recorded. Disc pressure in the intact specimens increased during flexion by 26 ± 14%. After cementation, disc pressure increased during flexion by 15 ± 11% in the discs with un-fractured endplates, while decreased by 19 ± 26.7% in the discs with the fractured endplates. During flexion, the compressive strain at the anterior wall of the vertebra next to the fractured endplate increased by 94 ± 23% compared to intact status (p < 0.05), while it did not significantly change at the vertebra next to the un-fractured endplate (18.2 ± 7.1%, p > 0.05). Subsequent flexion with compression to failure resulted in adjacent fracture close to the fractured endplate in six specimens and in a non-adjacent fracture in one specimen, while one specimen had no adjacent fractures. Depression of the fractured endplate alters the pressure profile of the damaged disc resulting in increased compressive loading of the anterior wall of adjacent vertebra that predisposes it to wedge fracture. This data suggests that correction of endplate deformity may play a role in reducing the risk of adjacent fractures.

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