Assessing the Mechanical Weakness of Vertebrae Affected by Primary Tumors: A Feasibility Study

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Patients spend months between the primary spinal tumor diagnosis and the surgical treatment, due to the need for performing chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. During this period, they are exposed to an unknown risk of fracture. The aim of this study was to assess if it is possible to measure the mechanical strain in vertebrae affected by primary tumors, so as to open the way to an evidence-based scoring or prediction tool. We performed biomechanical tests on three vertebrae with bone tumor removed from patients. The tests were designed so as not to compromise the standard surgical and diagnostic procedures. Non-destructive mechanical tests in combination with state-of-the-art digital image correlation allowed to measure the distribution of strain on the surface of the vertebra. Our study has shown that the strains in the tumor region is circa 3 times higher than in the healthy bones, with principal strain peaks of 40,000/-20,000 microstrain, indicating a stress concentration potentially triggering vertebral fracture. This study has proven it is possible to analyze the mechanical behavior of primary tumor vertebrae as part of the clinical treatment protocol. This will allow building a tool for quantifying the risk of fracture and improving decision making in spine tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Jul 22 2020


  • digital image correlation
  • in vitro tests
  • mechanical stability
  • primary tumor
  • spine disease
  • strain analysis
  • vertebra

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