The Role of Sacral Slope in the Progression of a Bilateral Spondylolytic Defect at L5 to Spondylolisthesis: A Biomechanical Investigation Using Finite Element Analysis

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Global Spine Journal, 2018, 8 (5), pp. 460 - 470
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© The Author(s) 2017. Study Design: A biomechanical study using finite element analysis. Objectives: The main objective of this study was to investigate the role of sacral slope in the progression of a L5 bilateral spondylolytic defect to spondylolisthesis. Methods: A 3-dimensional model of lumbosacral spine was built using computed tomography (CT) data procured from an anonymized healthy male subject. The segmented CT data was manipulated to generate 3 more models representing L5 bilateral spondylolytic defect with normal sacral slope (SS), sacral slope increased by 10° (SS+10), and sacral slope decreased by 10° (SS-10). The 3D models were imported into finite element modelling software Strand7 for preprocessing, running nonlinear static solves, and postprocessing of the results. Results: Directional biomechanical instabilities were induced in the lumbosacral spine as a result of changes in the L5-S1 disc shape secondary to the changes in sacral slope. Compared with the normal L5 lytic model, wedging of the L5-S1 disc (SS+10) resulted in a significantly greater range of motion in flexion (18% ↑) but extension motion characteristics were similar. Conversely, flattening of the L5-S1 disc (SS-10) resulted in a significantly greater range of motion in extension (16% ↑) but flexion motion characteristics were similar to that of the normal L5 lytic model. Conclusions: Variations in sacral slope while preserving the L5-S1 mid-disc height and orientation of the L5 vertebra resulted in variations in the L5-S1 disc shape. The results suggest that for such extremities in the L5-S1 disc shape different pathomechanisms exist for the progression of the L5 lytic defect to spondylolisthesis.
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