The facet capsular ligaments (FCLs) flank the spinous process on the posterior aspect of the spine. The lumbar FCL is collagenous, with collagen fibers aligned primarily bone-to-bone (medial-lateral) and experiences significant shear, especially during spinal flexion and extension. We characterized the mechanical response of the lumbar FCL to in-plane shear, and we evaluated that response in the context of the fiber architecture. In-plane shear tests with both positive and negative shear (i.e., corresponding to flexion and to extension) were performed on eight cadaveric human L4-L5 FCLs. Our most striking observation was subject-dependent asymmetry in the response. All samples showed a toe region of low stiffness, transitioning to greater stiffness at higher strains, for both shear directions. Different samples showed profoundly different transition strains, with some samples stiffening more rapidly in positive shear and some in negative shear. This unpredictable asymmetry, which did not correlate with age, side, or degeneration state, suggesting that collagen fibers in the FCL are sometimes aligned at a slight positive angle from the bone-to-bone axis and sometimes at a negative angle. Fitting the experimental data to a fiber-composite-based finite element model supported this idea, yielding optimal fits with positive or negative off-axis fiber directions (−40° to +40°). Subsequent examination of selected FCLs by small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS) showed a similar variability in fiber direction. We conclude that small individual differences in lumbar FCL architecture may have a significant effect on lumbar FCL mechanics, especially at moderate strains.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding provided through NIH/NIAMS T32 AR050938 Musculoskeletal Training Grant, NIH/NICHD K12 HD073945 and NIH/NIBIB U01AT010326.
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd
- Facet capsular ligaments
- Finite element model
- Lumbar spine
- Shear mechanics
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural