Experimental methods for the biomechanical inestigation of the human spine: A reiew

Nicola Brandolini, Luca Cristofolini, Marco Viceconti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In itro mechanical testing of spinal specimens is extremely important to better understand the biomechanics of the healthy and diseased spine, fracture, and to test/optimize surgical treatment. While spinal testing has extensiely been carried out in the past four decades, testing methods are quite dierse. This paper aims to proide a critical oeriew of the in itro methods for mechanical testing the human spine at different scales. Specimens of different type are used, according to the aim of the study: spine segments (two or more adjacent ertebrae) are used both to inestigate the spine kinematics, and the mechanical properties of the spine components (ertebrae, ligaments, discs); single ertebrae (whole ertebra, isolated ertebral body, or ertebral body without endplates) are used to inestigate the structural properties of the ertebra itself; core specimens are extracted to test the mechanical properties of the trabecular bone at the tissue-leel; mechanical properties of spine soft tissue (discs, ligaments, spinal cord) are measured on isolated elements, or on tissue specimens. Identification of consistent reference frames is still a debated issue. Testing conditions feature different pre-conditioning and loading rates, depending on the simulated action. Tissue specimen preseration is a ery critical issue, affecting test results. Animal models are often used as a surrogate. Howeer, because of different structure and anatomy, extreme caution is required when extrapolating to the human spine. In itro loading conditions should be based on reliable in io data. Because of the high complexity of the spine, such information (either through instrumented implants or through numerical modeling) is currently unsatisfactory. Because of the increasing ability of computational models in predicting biomechanical properties of musculoskeletal structures, a synergy is possible (and desirable) between in itro experiments and numerical modeling. Future perspecties in spine testing include integration of mechanical and structural properties at different dimensional scales (from the whole-body-leel down to the tissue-leel) so that organ-leel models (which are used to predict the most releant phenomena such as fracture) include information from all dimensional scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14300026
JournalJournal of Mechanics in Medicine and Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • ertebral body stiffness and strength
  • interertebral discs and ligaments
  • mechanical properties of human ertebrae
  • Methods for in itro testing
  • reference frames
  • spine biomechanics
  • test specimens and animal surrogates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Experimental methods for the biomechanical inestigation of the human spine: A reiew'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this