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Vincent C. Traynelis, Paul A. Donaher, Robert M. Roach, H. Kojimoto and Vijay K. Goel

✓ Traumatic cervical spine injuries have been successfully stabilized with plates applied to the anterior vertebral bodies. Previous biomechanical studies suggest, however, that these devices may not provide adequate stability if the posterior ligaments are disrupted. To study this problem, the authors simulated a C-5 teardrop fracture with posterior ligamentous instability in human cadaveric spines. This model was used to compare the immediate biomechanical stability of anterior cervical plating, from C-4 to C-6, to that provided by a posterior wiring construct over the same levels. Stability was tested in six modes of motion: flexion, extension, right and left lateral bending, and right and left axial rotation. The injured/plate-stabilized spines were more stable than the intact specimens in all modes of testing. The injured/posterior-wired specimens were more stable than the intact spines in axial rotation and flexion. They were not as stable as the intact specimens in the lateral bending or extension testing modes. The data were normalized with respect to the motion of the uninjured spine and compared using repeated measures of analysis of variance, the results of which indicate that anterior plating provides significantly more stability in extension and lateral bending than does posterior wiring. The plate was more stable than the posterior construct in flexion loading; however, the difference was not statistically significant. The two constructs provide similar stability in axial rotation. This study provides biomechanical support for the continued use of bicortical anterior plate fixation in the setting of traumatic cervical spine instability.