Degeneration of the lumbar spine, and especially how that degeneration may lead to pain, remains poorly understood. In particular, the mechanics of the facet capsular ligament may contribute to low back pain, but the mechanical changes that occur in this ligament with spinal degeneration are unknown. Additionally, the highly nonlinear, heterogeneous, and anisotropic nature of the facet capsular ligament makes understanding mechanical changes more difficult. Clinically, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based signs of degeneration in the facet joint and the intervertebral disc (IVD) correlate. Therefore, this study examined how the nonlinear, heterogeneous mechanics of the facet capsular ligament change with degeneration of the lumbar spine as characterized using MRI. Cadaveric human spines were imaged via MRI, and the L2-L5 facet joints and IVDs were scored using the Fujiwara and Pfirrmann grading systems. Then, the facet capsular ligament was isolated and biaxially loaded. The nonlinear mechanical properties of the ligament were obtained using a nonlinear generalized anisotropic inverse mechanics analysis (nGAIM). Then a Holzapfel-Gasser-Ogden (HGO) model was fit to the stress-strain data obtained from nGAIM. The facet capsular ligament is stiffer and more anisotropic at larger Pfirrmann grades and higher Fujiwara scores than at lower grades and scores. Analysis of ligament heterogeneity showed all tissues are highly heterogeneous, but no distinct spatial patterns of heterogeneity were found. These results show that degeneration of the lumbar spine including the facet capsular ligament appears to be occurring as a whole joint phenomenon and advance our understanding of lumbar spine degeneration.
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- facet capsular ligament
- inverse mechanics