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Curtis A. Dickman, Neil R. Crawford, and Christopher G. Paramore

✓ The biomechanical characteristics of four different methods of C1–2 cable fixation were studied to assess the effectiveness of each technique in restoring atlantoaxial stability. Biomechanical testing was performed on the upper cervical spines of four human cadaveric specimens. Physiological range loading was applied to the atlantoaxial specimens and three-dimensional motion was analyzed with stereophotogrammetry. The load–deformation relationships and kinematics were measured, including the stiffness, the angular ranges of motion, the linear ranges of motion, and the axes of rotation.

Specimens were nondestructively tested in the intact state, after surgical destabilization, and after each of four different methods of cable fixation. Cable fixation techniques included the interspinous technique, the Brooks technique, and two variants of the Gallie technique. All specimens were tested immediately after fixation and again after the specimen was fatigued with 6000 cycles of physiological range torsional loading.

All four cable fixation methods were moderately flexible immediately; the different cable fixations allowed between 5° and 40° of rotational motion and between 0.6 and 7 mm of translational motion to occur at C1–2. The Brooks and interspinous methods controlled C1–2 motion significantly better than both of the Gallie techniques. The motion allowed by one of the Gallie techniques did not differ significantly from the motion of the unfixed destabilized specimens. All cable fixation techniques loosened after cyclic loading and demonstrated significant increases in C1–2 rotational and translational motions. The bone grafts shifted during cyclic loading, which reduced the effectiveness of the fixation.

The locations of the axes of rotation, which were unconstrained and mobile in the destabilized specimens, became altered with cable fixation. The C1–2 cables constrained motion by shifting the axes of rotation so that C-1 rotated around the fixed cable and graft site. After the specimen was fatigued, the axes of rotation became more widely dispersed but were usually still localized near the cable and graft site.

Adequate healing requires satisfactory control of C1–2 motion. Therefore, some adjunctive fixation is advocated to supplement the control of motion after C1–2 cable fixation (that is, a cervical collar, a halo brace, or rigid internal fixation with transarticular screws).

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Michael D. Staudt, Doron Rabin, Ali A. Baaj, Neil R. Crawford, and Neil Duggal


There are limited data regarding the implications of revision posterior surgery in the setting of previous cervical arthroplasty (CA). The purpose of this study was to analyze segmental biomechanics in human cadaveric specimens with and without CA, in the context of graded posterior resection.


Fourteen human cadaveric cervical spines (C3–T1 or C2–7) were divided into arthroplasty (ProDisc-C, n = 7) and control (intact disc, n = 7) groups. Both groups underwent sequential posterior element resections: unilateral foraminotomy, laminoplasty, and finally laminectomy. Specimens were studied sequentially in two different loading apparatuses during the induction of flexion-extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation.


Range of motion (ROM) after artificial disc insertion was reduced relative to that in the control group during axial rotation and lateral bending (13% and 28%, respectively; p < 0.05) but was similar during flexion and extension. With sequential resections, ROM increased by a similar magnitude following foraminotomy and laminoplasty in both groups. Laminectomy had a much greater effect: mean (aggregate) ROM during flexion-extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation was increased by a magnitude of 52% following laminectomy in the setting of CA, compared to an 8% increase without arthroplasty. In particular, laminectomy in the setting of CA introduced significant instability in flexion-extension, characterized by a 90% increase in ROM from laminoplasty to laminectomy, compared to a 16% increase in ROM from laminoplasty to laminectomy without arthroplasty (p < 0.05).


Foraminotomy and laminoplasty did not result in significant instability in the setting of CA, compared to controls. Laminectomy alone, however, resulted in a significant change in biomechanics, allowing for significantly increased flexion and extension. Laminectomy alone should be used with caution in the setting of previous CA.

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Sedat Çagli, Neil R. Crawford, Volker K. H. Sonntag, and Curtis A. Dickman

Object. The authors sought to determine the biomechanical effectiveness of threaded interbody cages or dowels compared with that achieved using pedicle screw instrumentation in resisting Grade I lumbar spine degenerative spondylolisthesis.

Methods. Thirty-three levels obtained from seven cadaveric lumbar spines were instrumented with cages or dowels, pedicle screw/rod instrumentation, or both. Entire specimens were loaded with nonconstraining torques. Each level was loaded with anteroposterior shear forces while an optical system was used to measure the specimen's motion at individual levels.

Pedicle screw/rods outperformed interbody cages and dowels in treating spondylolisthesis. Cages or dowels alone provided only moderate biomechanical stability, and their effectiveness depended heavily on the integrity of the ligaments and remaining annulus, whereas the success of pedicle screw fixation relied predominantly on the integrity of the bone for solid fixation. Little biomechanical difference was demonstrated between cages and dowels; both devices were susceptible to loosening with cyclic fatigue.

Conclusions. Biomechanically, cages or dowels alone were suboptimal for treating lumbar spondylolisthesis, especially compared with pedicle screw/rods. Threaded cages or dowels used together with pedicle screws/rods created the most stable construct.

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Neil R. Crawford, Sedat Çagli, Volker K. H. Sonntag, and Curtis A. Dickman

Object. The authors sought to create and to evaluate an in vitro model of Grade I degenerative (closed-arch) spondylolisthesis.

Methods. The model of spondylolisthesis was created by two primary procedures: 1) resection of the disc; and 2) stripping of anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments away from the vertebral bodies (VBs). In 13 vertebral levels obtained from three cadaveric lumbar spines, the tissues were resected sequentially in alternating order to determine the relative contribution of each resection to spinal instability. The entire specimens were loaded with nonconstraining torques and then individual levels were loaded with anteroposterior shear forces. The motion values were measured optoelectronically for each specimen at individual levels.

Conclusions. The integrity of the disc was more important than attachment of the ligaments to the VB, but the resection of both structures was necessary to achieve substantial destabilization. The structures of the spine are highly resilient, and destabilization is difficult to achieve without performing extensive resection. Using the techniques described in this paper to alter normal spines, a level of spinal instability (Grade I; 25% slippage) that may represent spondylolisthesis can be modeled in vitro.

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R. John Hurlbert, Neil R. Crawford, Won Gyu Choi, and Curtis A. Dickman

Object. The purpose of this study was to compare cable techniques used in occipitocervical fixation with two types of screw fixation. The authors hypothesized that screw fixation would provide superior immobilization compared with cable methods.

Methods. Ten cadaveric specimens were prepared for biomechanical analyses by using standard techniques. Angular and linear displacement data were recorded from the occiput to C-6 with infrared optical sensors after conditioning runs. Specimens underwent retesting after fatiguing. Six methods of fixation were analyzed: Steinmann pin with and without C-1 incorporation; Cotrel-Dubousett horseshoe with and without C-1 incorporation; Mayfield loop with C1–2 transarticular screw fixation; and a custom-designed occipitocervical transarticular screw-plate system. Sublaminar techniques were extended to include C-3 in the fusion construct, whereas transarticular techniques incorporated the occiput, C-1, and C-2 only.

All methods of fixation provided significant immobilization in all specimens compared with the nonconstrained destabilized state. Despite incorporation of an additional vertebral segment, sublaminar techniques performed worse as a function of applied load than screw fixation techniques. Following fatiguing, these differences were more pronounced. The sublaminar techniques failed most prominently in flexion—extension and in axial rotation. On gross inspection, increased angular displacement associated with loosening of the sublaminar cables was observed.

Conclusion. Occipitocervical fixation can be performed using a variety of techniques; all bestow significant immobilization compared with the destabilized spine. All methods tested in this study were susceptible to fatigue and loss of reduction and were weakest in resisting vertical settling. Screw fixation of the occiput—C2 reduces the number of vertebral segments that are necessary to incorporate into the fusion construct while providing superior immobilization and resistance to fatigue and vertical settling compared with sublaminar methods.

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Jonathan S. Hott, James J. Lynch, Robert H. Chamberlain, Volker K. H. Sonntag, and Neil R. Crawford

Object. In a nondestructive, repeated-measures in vitro flexibility experiment, the authors compared the acute stability of C1–2 after placement of C-1 lateral mass and C-2 pars interarticularis (LC1—PC2) instrumentation with that of C1–2 transarticular screw fixation.

Methods. The effect of C-1 laminectomy and C1–2 interspinous cable/graft fixation on LC1—PC2 stability was studied. Screw pullout strengths were also compared. Seven human cadaveric occiput—C3 specimens were loaded nondestructively with pure moments while measuring nonconstrained atlantoaxial motion. Specimens were tested with graft alone, LC1—PC2 alone, LC1—PC2 combined with C-1 laminectomy, and graft-augmented LC1—PC2. Interspinous cable/graft fixation significantly enhanced LC1—PC2 stability during extension. After C-1 laminectomy, the LC1—PC2 construct allowed increased motion during flexion and extension. There was no significant difference in lax zone or range of motion between LC1—PC2 fixation and transarticular screw fixation, but graft-assisted transarticular screws yielded a significantly smaller stiff zone during extension. The difference in pullout resistance between C-1 lateral mass screws and C-2 pars interarticularis screws was insignificant. The LC1—PC2 region restricted motion to within the normal range during all loading modes. Atlantal laminectomy reduced LC1—PC2 stability during flexion and extension.

Conclusions. The instrumentation-augmented LC1—PC2 construct performed biomechanically similarly to the C1–2 transarticular screw fixation. The LC1—PC2 construct resisted flexion, lateral bending, and axial rotation well. The weakness of the LC1—PC2 fixation in resisting extension can be overcome by adding an interspinous graft to the construct.

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Chandan Das, Anna G. U. S. Newcomb, Daniel P. Gaudin, and Neil R. Crawford


Atlantooccipital fixation is an important technique in the treatment of upper cervical spine instability. Important considerations for implant devices are obtrusiveness and propagation of torque through the device caused by cervical rotation. The authors evaluated the feasibility of 3 regions of the occiput as sites for occipitocervical fixation by examining bone mineral density at these locations.


Unembalmed occiputs of 9 male and 4 female cadavers were used (mean age at time of death was 61.6 years, range 36–68 years). Studies were undertaken using caliper measurements and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry of the superior nuchal line (SNL), the external occipital protuberance (EOP), and the inferior nuchal line (INL).


Data indicate that the bone at the INL has a similar volumetric bone density as the bone at the SNL, despite having half the thickness. Also, the volumetric bone density increases laterally along the nuchal lines.


Most hardware fixation is centered on stabilization at the EOP and the SNL. On the basis of these radiological results, the INL shows promise as a potential alternative site for screw placement in occipitocervical fixation.

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Biomechanical analysis of a newly designed bioabsorbable anterior cervical plate

Invited submission from the Joint Section Meeting on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves, March 2005

Christopher P. Ames, Frank L. Acosta Jr., Robert H. Chamberlain, Adolfo Espinoza Larios, and Neil R. Crawford

Object. The authors present a biomechanical analysis of a newly designed bioabsorbable anterior cervical plate (ACP) for the treatment of one-level cervical degenerative disc disease. They studied anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) in a human cadaveric model, comparing the stability of the cervical spine after placement of the bioabsorbable fusion plate, a bioabsorbable mesh, and a more traditional metallic ACP.

Methods. Seven human cadaveric specimens underwent a C6–7 fibular graft—assisted ACDF placement. A one-level resorbable ACP was then placed and secured with bioabsorbable screws. Flexibility testing was performed on both intact and instrumented specimens using a servohydraulic system to create flexion—extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation motions. After data analysis, three parameters were calculated: angular range of motion, lax zone, and stiff zone. The results were compared with those obtained in a previous study of a resorbable fusion mesh and with those acquired using metallic fusion ACPs. For all parameters studied, the resorbable plate consistently conferred greater stability than the resorbable mesh. Moreover, it offered comparable stability with that of metallic fusion ACPs.

Conclusions. Bioabsorbable plates provide better stability than resorbable mesh. Although the results of this study do not necessarily indicate that a resorbable plate confers equivalent stability to a metal plate, the resorbable ACP certainly yielded better results than the resorbable mesh. Bioabsorbable fusion ACPs should therefore be considered as alternatives to metal plates when a graft containment device is required.

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Sait Naderi, Neil R. Crawford, M. Stephen Melton, Volker K. H. Sonntag, and Curtis A. Dickman

The authors conducted a biomechancial study to determine whether C-1 ring integrity is important in maintaining normal occiput-C-2 separation, specifically when the anterior arch is transected to provide access to the dens during an odontoidectomy procedure.

Six human cadaveric occiput-C3 specimens were loaded under axial compression, and the bilateral horizontal separation of the C-1 lateral masses and the vertical compression of the occiput relative to C-2 were recorded. Specimens were first studied after odontoidectomy without C-1 ring transection, then after C-1 anterior arch transection, and finally after C-1 lamina transection.

With applied compressive load corresponding to three times the weight of the head, the C-1 ring spread horizontally 1.57 ± 0.30 mm more when the anterior arch of C-1 was transected than when left intact, resulting in 0.74 ± 0.44 mm collapse in the occiput-C-2 vertical separation. After laminar transection, the C-1 ring spread 6.55 ± 2.29 mm more than when it was intact. The resultant vertical separation was a 3.37 ± 1.89-mm collapse in the occiput-C-2. All changes in C-1 spreading and the occiput-C-2 collapse were statistically significant (p < 0.05, paired Student's t-tests). The C-1 ring continuity prevents horizontal spreading caused by the wedging of C-1 between the occiput and C-2 and thus prevents cranial settling. Therefore, to prevent the subsequent development of disease related to cranial settling, the authors recommend that the surgeon resect part of C-1 only if necessary during odontoidectomy.

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Paul W. Detwiler, Randall W. Porter, Neil R. Crawford, Paul J. Apostolides, and Curtis A. Dickman

The goals of surgery for metastatic disease of the lumbosacral spine are to relieve compression of the thecal sac and nerve roots, to resect malignant tissue, and to create a stable reconstruction of the spine. Reconstruction of the lumbosacral junction, specifically the L-5 vertebral body, is particularly challenging because the biomechanical properties of this level differ from other areas of the spine.

A 40-year-old woman with intraductal breast carcinoma that metastasized to the L-5 vertebral body presented with progressive low-back pain, right-sided L-5 radiculopathy, and weakness. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed a pathological fracture of the L-5 vertebral body with compression of the cauda equina. The L-5 posterior arch, both facet joints and pedicles, and the posterior third of the vertebral body were removed via a posterior approach. A pedicle screw fixation system was applied from L-4 to S-1. The patient was repositioned, and a transabdominal approach was used to resect the anterior two thirds of the L-5 body, which was reconstructed using an allograft bone strut. An interference bone screw was placed through the inferior aspect of the allograft and screwed into the body of S-1 to provide stability for the reconstructive graft.

The patient's clinical recovery was excellent. She was ambulating without difficulty when seen at 19-month follow-up examination.

Complete spondylectomy by using this novel fusion technique was efficacious in the treatment of metastatic disease to the vertebral column.