To avoid the cost of bone graft substitutes and the morbidity of iliac crest bone graft retrieval, locally harvested vertebral body bone has been used to fill interbody cages. When marginal hypertrophic osteophytes are used, there is little impact on the adjacent vertebrae, but when cancellous bone is removed from the central part of the vertebral body, it is not clear how significantly this procedure weakens the vertebra. The objective of this study was to investigate the immediate mechanical response of the cervical spine after removing bone from the central vertebral body.
Fourteen cervical functional spinal units (FSUs) (mean age 73.3 years, range 63–90 years) were used. For each FSU, bone mineral density (BMD) was determined using lateral-view dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry studies. The FSUs were assigned to 1 of 2 groups (test group or control group) with an equal distribution of BMD. All specimens received a cage placed into the cleaned disc space. The specimens from the test group had a 5-mm-diameter bone plug removed from the vertebral bodies superior and inferior to the cage-fitted disc. The specimens were loaded in flexion-compression until failure via an eccentric compressive force at 0.25 mm/second.
The yield compression strength was 1149 ± 523 N for the test group and 1647 ± 962 N for the control group (p = 0.25). The ultimate compression strength was 1699 ± 498 N for the test group and 2450 N ± 835 N for the control group (p = 0.06). Force at 4 mm displacement was 1064 N for the test group and 1574 N for the control group (p = 0.15). Displacement at yield compression strength was 4.4 mm for the test group and 4.2 mm for the control group (p = 0.78). There was no significant intergroup difference for any of the studied parameters.
There does not appear to be a significant early biomechanical weakening of adjacent vertebrae caused by aforementioned technique of local bone harvest.