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Design and biomechanical evaluation of a rodent spinal fixation device Shahrokni, Maryam

Abstract

Previous experimental studies of spinal cord injury (SCI) in rodents established the importance of fixation of the spine in survival models following a mechanical injury. However, no fixation device has been designed to provide spinal stabilization, prevent additional damage to the cord, and promote fusion at the site of injury. The present study aims to design a novel rat spinal fixation device, which will be used in future survival studies and investigates its biomechanical effectiveness in stabilizing the spine up to eight weeks post injury. A custom-made magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) compatible fixation device was designed to stabilize the C5/C6 joint. This was achieved in an animal model by creating a 1.5 mm fracture-dislocation injury between C5 and C6 spinal segments of Sprague-Dawley rats using a multimechanism SCI test system. A biomechanical evaluation of the device-spine system was conducted at these segments. Cycles of stepwise directed shear forces with a maximum of 0.98 N were applied at a known distance from the injured site producing flexion and extension bending moments, while the resulting two-dimensional motions between C5 and C6 were measured and presented in the form of load-displacement curves. This was implemented at two time points: immediately (n = 6), and eight weeks post-injury (n = 9) and the results were compared to an intact group (n = 6). Average ± S.D. flexion/extension ranges of motion (ROM) were 18.1 ± 3.3º, 19.9 ± 7.5º, and 1.5 ± 0.7º, and neutral zones (NZ) were 3.4 ± 2.8º, 5.0 ± 2.4º, and 0.7 ± 0.5º, respectively for the intact, injured/fixed, and injured/8-week groups. The results show that there is a significant difference in ROM and NZ between the injured/fixed and injured/8-week groups (p-values = 0.0002, and 0.006, respectively). The device acutely stabilizes the spine by restoring its stiffness to the initial stiffness of the intact specimen. It also proves that along with the biological factors over time, fusion is promoted at the site of injury. This study presents the design and evaluation of a novel well-characterized spinal fixation device for rats, which will be used in future experimental SCI survival models.

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