A bilateral dynamic stabilization device is assumed to alter favorable the movement and load transmission of a spinal segment without the intention of fusion of that segment. Little is known about the effect of a posterior dynamic fixation device on the mechanical behavior of the lumbar spine. Muscle forces were disregarded in the few biomechanical studies published. The aim of this study was to determine how the spinal loads are affected by a bilateral posterior dynamic implant compared to a rigid fixator which does not claim to maintain mobility. A paired monosegmental posterior dynamic implant was inserted at level L3/L4 in a validated finite element model of the lumbar spine. Both a healthy and a slightly degenerated disc were assumed at implant level. Distraction of the bridged segment was also simulated. For comparison, a monosegmental rigid fixation device as well as the effect of implant stiffness on intersegmental rotation were studied. The model was loaded with the upper body weight and muscle forces to simulate the four loading cases standing, 30° flexion, 20° extension, and 10° axial rotation. Intersegmental rotations, intradiscal pressure and facet joint forces were calculated at implant level and at the adjacent level above the implant. Implant forces were also determined. Compared to an intact spine, a dynamic implant reduces intersegmental rotation at implant level, decreases intradiscal pressure in a healthy disc for extension and standing, and decreases facet joint forces at implant level. With a rigid implant, these effects are more pronounced. With a slightly degenerated disc intersegmental rotation at implant level is mildly increased for extension and axial rotation and intradiscal pressure is strongly reduced for extension. After distraction, intradiscal pressure values are markedly reduced only for the rigid implant. At the adjacent level L2/L3, a posterior implant has only a minor effect on intradiscal pressure. However, it increases facet joint forces at this level for axial rotation and extension. Posterior implants are mostly loaded in compression. Forces in the implant are generally higher in a rigid fixator than in a dynamic implant. Distraction strongly increases both axial and shear forces in the implant. A stiffness of the implant greater than 1,000 N/mm has only a minor effect on intersegmental rotation. The mechanical effects of a dynamic implant are similar to those of a rigid fixation device, except after distraction, when intradiscal pressure is considerably lower for rigid than for dynamic implants. Thus, the results of this study demonstrate that a dynamic implant does not necessarily reduce axial spinal loads compared to an un-instrumented spine.
Lumbar spinePosterior dynamic implantInternal fixation deviceFinite element methodBiomechanics