, Volume 51, Issue 9, pp 1573-1577
Date: 17 Feb 2011

Ex Vivo Intervertebral Disc Bulging Measurement Using a Fibre Bragg Grating Sensor

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Advances using optical fibres as sensors may represent an important contribution for development of minimally invasive techniques in biomedical and biomechanical applications. Concerning spine injuries, intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is a major clinical issue since it represents gross structural disruption and it is irreversible. Measuring biomechanical parameters of the IVD should contribute for better understanding on its mechanical response to external applied forces. The purpose of this study was to explore the potential of a Fibre Bragg Grating (FBG) sensor to measure strain caused by bulging of the intervertebral disc under axial compression. Disc bulging is a consequence of IVD compression and a technique to register this behaviour is addressed in this study. Needle-mounted sensors were already used to measure IVD pressure in cadaveric material. In this study we also explored the possibility of using needles only for sensor guiding and positioning leaving sensor directly in contact with the IVD material. An ex vivo porcine dorsal functional spinal unit was instrumented with a FBG sensor and submitted to axial compression. Results suggest the sensor’s ability to measure strain response to load. Bulging of the annulus fibrosus as a consequence of axial compression was confirmed using the FBG sensor. Hysteresis and viscoelastic behaviour were observable suggesting that energy is dissipated by the deformation of the annulus and that unloading time was insufficient for disc recovery. Nevertheless the relatively low strain sensitivity of the sensor as well as signal artefacts caused by transverse loading may constitute a problem in the analysis and interpretation of strain data. The technique may not be suitable for measurement of physiologic bulging being more indicative of the radial force exerted by the annulus.