Numerical prediction of the mechanical failure of the intervertebral disc under complex loading conditions

Gloria Casaroli, Tomaso Villa, Tito Bassani, Nikolaus Berger-Roscher, Hans Joachim Wilke, Fabio Galbusera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Finite element modeling has been widely used to simulate the mechanical behavior of the intervertebral disc. Previous models have been generally limited to the prediction of the disc behavior under simple loading conditions, thus neglecting its response to complex loads, which may induce its failure. The aim of this study was to generate a finite element model of the ovine lumbar intervertebral disc, in which the annulus was characterized by an anisotropic hyperelastic formulation, and to use it to define which mechanical condition was unsafe for the disc. Based on published in vitro results, numerical analyses under combined flexion, lateral bending, and axial rotation with a magnitude double that of the physiological ones were performed. The simulations showed that flexion was the most unsafe load and an axial tensile stress greater than 10 MPa can cause disc failure. The numerical model here presented can be used to predict the failure of the disc under all loading conditions, which may support indications about the degree of safety of specific motions and daily activities, such as weight lifting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Anisotropic hyperelastic
  • Annulus fibrosus
  • Finite element analysis
  • Herniation
  • Intervertebral disc
  • Ovine model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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