Biomechanical test protocols to detect minor injury effects in intervertebral discs

Olivia M. Torre, Thomas W. Evashwick-Rogler, Phillip Nasser, James C. Iatridis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Intervertebral discs (IVDs) maintain flexibility of the spine and bear mechanical load. Annulus fibrosus (AF) defects are associated with IVD degeneration and herniation which disrupt biomechanical function and can cause pain. AF puncture injuries can induce IVD degeneration but are needed to inject therapies. Identifying small AF defects with biomechanical testing can be difficult because IVDs have a complex, composite structure and nonlinear biomechanical properties that are dependent on AF fiber tension. It remains unclear how choice of biomechanical testing protocols affect the sensitivity of biomechanical properties to AF injuries. This study determined whether axial preload or magnitude of cyclic axial or torsional testing affected the ability to detect minor AF defects in rat caudal motion segments using ex vivo biomechanical testing. Intact and injured motion segments were subjected to a repeated measures study design with multiple biomechanical testing protocols that varied axial tension-compression force amplitude (±1.6 N, ±8.0 N, ±16.0 N), axial preload (−1.6 N, −8.0 N, −16.0 N, corresponding to −0.1 MPa, −0.5 MPa, and −1.0 MPa, respectively), and torsional rotation angle (±10°, ±15°, and ±20°). Biomechanical properties obtained from the lowest force testing conditions for axial tension-compression (±1.6 N), axial preload (−1.6 N), and angular rotation (±10°) exhibited the largest differences in biomechanical properties between intact and injured conditions. Biomechanical properties determined under low axial force or torsion amplitudes involve less AF fiber tension and were most sensitive to injury. Low force testing protocols are recommended for detecting minor structural AF defects and may enable more precise assessments of IVD injuries, healing or repair.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-20
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Biomechanical test protocol
  • IVD degeneration
  • IVD repair
  • Intervertebral disc
  • Motion segment biomechanics
  • Needle puncture injury


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