Niloufar Shekouhi, Amey Kelkar, David Dick, Vijay K. Goel, Derek Shaw

January 2022, pp 1 - 17 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-022-07113-1

First Online: 29 January 2022


Although distraction-based growing rods (GR) are the gold standard for the treatment of early onset scoliosis, they suffer from high failure rates. We have (1) performed a literature search to understand the deficiencies of the current protocols, (2) in vitro evaluation of GRs using our proposed protocol and performed a finite element (FE) model validation, and (3) identified key features which should be considered in mechanical testing setups.


PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science databases were searched for articles published on (a) in vivo animal, in vitro cadaveric, and biomechanical studies analyzing the use of GRs as well as (b) failure mechanisms and risk factors for GRs. Both FE and benchtop models of a proposed TGR test construct were developed and evaluated for two cases, long tandem connectors (LT), and side-by-side connectors (SBS). The test construct consisted of five polymer blocks representing vertebral bodies, joined with springs to simulate spinal stiffness. The superior and inferior blocks accepted the pedicle screw anchors, while the three middle blocks were floating. After the pedicle screws, rods, and connectors were assembled onto this construct, distraction was performed, mimicking scoliosis surgery. The resulting distracted constructs were then subjected to static compression-bending loading. Yield load and stiffness were calculated and used to verify/validate the FE results.


From the literature search, key features identified as significant were axial and transverse connectors, contoured rods, and distraction, distraction being the most challenging feature to incorporate in testing. The in silico analyses, once they are validated, can be used as a complementing technique to investigate other anatomical features which are not possible in the mechanical setup (like growth/scoliosis curvature). Based on our experiment, the LT constructs showed higher stiffness and yield load compared to SBS (78.85 N/mm vs. 59.68 N/mm and 838.84 N vs. 623.3 N). The FE predictions were in agreement with the experimental outcomes (within 10% difference). The maximum von Mises stresses were predicted adjacent to the distraction site, consistent with the location of observed failures in vivo.


The two-way approach presented in this study can lead to a robust prediction of the contributing factors to the in vivo failure.

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