In Vitro Evaluation of a Lateral Expandable Cage and its Comparison with a Static Device for Lumbar Interbody Fusion: A Biomechanical Investigation

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expandable cage, spine biomechanics, lumbar, lateral interbody fusion

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Object: Through in vitro biomechanical testing, the authors compared the performance of a vertically expandable lateral lumbar interbody cage (EC) under two different torque-controlled expansions (1.5 and 3.0 Nm) and with respect to an equivalent lateral lumbar static cage (SC) with and without pedicle screw fixation.

Methods: Eleven cadaveric human L2–3 segments were evaluated under the following conditions: 1) intact; 2) discectomy; 3) EC under 1.50 Nm of torque expansion (EC-1.5Nm); 4) EC under 3.00 Nm of torque expansion (EC-3.0Nm); 5) SC; and 6) SC with a bilateral pedicle screw system (SC+BPSS). Load-displacement behavior was evaluated for each condition using a combination of 100 N of axial preload and 7.5 Nm of torque in flexion and extension (FE), lateral bending (LB), and axial rotation (AR). Range of motion (ROM), neutral zone stiffness (NZS), and elastic zone stiffness (EZS) were statistically compared among conditions using post hoc Wilcoxon signed-rank comparisons after Friedman tests, with a significance level of 0.05. Additionally, any cage height difference between interbody devices was evaluated. When radiographic subsidence was observed, the specimen's data were not considered for the analysis.

Results: The final cage height in the EC-1.5Nm condition (12.1 ± 0.9 mm) was smaller (p < 0.001) than that in the EC-3.0Nm (13.9 ± 1.1 mm) and SC (13.4 ± 0.8 mm) conditions. All instrumentation reduced (p < 0.01) ROM with respect to the injury and increased (p ≤ 0.01) NZS in flexion, extension, and LB as well as EZS in flexion, LB, and AR. When comparing the torque expansions, the EC-3.0Nm condition had smaller (p < 0.01) FE and AR ROM and greater (p ≤ 0.04) flexion NZS, extension EZS, and AR EZS. The SC condition performed equivalently (p ≥ 0.10) to both EC conditions in terms of ROM, NZS, and EZS, except for EZS in AR, in which a marginal (p = 0.05) difference was observed with respect to the EC-3.0Nm condition. The SC+BPSS was the most rigid construct in terms of ROM and stiffness, except for 1) LB ROM, in which it was comparable (p = 0.08) with that of the EC-1.5Nm condition; 2) AR NZS, in which it was comparable (p > 0.66, Friedman test) with that of all other constructs; and 3) AR EZS, in which it was comparable with that of the EC-1.5Nm (p = 0.56) and SC (p = 0.08) conditions.

Conclusions: A 3.0-Nm torque expansion of a lateral interbody cage provides greater immediate stability in FE and AR than a 1.5-Nm torque expansion. Moreover, the expandable device provides stability comparable with that of an equivalent (in size, shape, and bone-interface material) SC. Specifically, the SC+BPSS construct was the most stable in FE motion. Even though an EC may seem a better option given the minimal tissue disruption during its implantation, there may be a greater chance of endplate collapse by over-distracting the disc space because of the minimal haptic feedback from the expansion.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, v. 20, issue 4, p. 387-395