Laura Zengerle, Christoph Fleege, Theodor Di Pauli von Treuheim, Daniel Vogele, Michael Rauschmann, Hans-Joachim Wilke

May 2021, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 1117 - 1124 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-021-06764-w

First Online: 17 March 2021


Prevention of implant subsidence in osteoporotic (thoraco)lumbar spines is still a major challenge in spinal surgery. In this study, a new biomechanical in vitro test method was developed to simulate patient activities in order to determine the subsidence risk of vertebral body replacements during physiologic loading conditions.


The study included 12 (thoraco)lumbar (T11-L1, L2-L4) human specimens. After dorsal stabilisation and corpectomy, vertebral body replacements (VBR) with (a) round centrally located and (b) lateral end pieces with apophyseal support were implanted, equally distributed regarding segment, sex, mean BMD ((a) 64.2 mgCaHA/cm3, (b) 66.7 mgCaHA/cm3) and age ((a) 78 years, (b) 73.5 years). The specimens were then subjected to everyday activities (climbing stairs, tying shoes, lifting 20 kg) simulated by a custom-made dynamic loading simulator combining corresponding axial loads with flexion–extension and lateral bending movements. They were applied in oscillating waves at 0.5 Hz and raised every 100 cycles phase-shifted to each other by 50 N or 0.25°, respectively. The range of motion (ROM) of the specimens was determined in all three motion planes under pure moments of 3.75 Nm prior to and after implantation as well as subsequently following activities. Simultaneously, subsidence depth was quantified from fluoroscope films. A mixed model (significance level: 0.05) was established to relate subsidence risk to implant geometries and patients’ activities.


With this new test method, simulating everyday activities provoked clinically relevant subsidence schemes. Generally, severe everyday activities caused deeper subsidence which resulted in increased ROM. Subsidence of lateral end pieces was remarkably less pronounced which was accompanied by a smaller ROM in flexion–extension and higher motion possibilities in axial rotation (p = 0.05).


In this study, a new biomechanical test method was developed that simulates physiologic activities to examine implant subsidence. It appears that the highest risk of subsidence occurs most when lifting heavy weights, and into the ventral part of the caudal vertebra. The results indicate that lateral end pieces may better prevent from implant subsidence because of the additional cortical support. Generally, patients that are treated with a VBR should avoid activities that create high loading on the spine.

Read Full Article