European Spine Journal

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 46–56 | Cite as

Anatomy of large animal spines and its comparison to the human spine: a systematic review

  • Sun-Ren Sheng
  • Xiang-Yang Wang
  • Hua-Zi Xu
  • Guo-Qing Zhu
  • Yi-Fei Zhou
Review Article


Animal models have been commonly used for in vivo and in vitro spinal research. However, the extent to which animal models resemble the human spine has not been well known. We conducted a systematic review to compare the morphometric features of vertebrae between human and animal species, so as to give some suggestions on how to choose an appropriate animal model in spine research. A literature search of all English language peer-reviewed publications was conducted using PubMed, OVID, Springer and Elsevier (Science Direct) for the years 1980–2008. Two reviewers extracted data on the anatomy of large animal spines from the identified articles. Each anatomical study of animals had to include at least three vertebral levels. The anatomical data from all animal studies were compared with the existing data of the human spine in the literature. Of the papers retrieved, seven were included in the review. The animals in the studies involved baboon, sheep, porcine, calf and deer. Distinct anatomical differences of vertebrae were found between the human and each large animal spine. In cervical region, spines of the baboon and human are more similar as compared to other animals. In thoracic and lumbar regions, the mean pedicle height of all animals was greater than the human pedicles. There was similar mean pedicle width between animal and the human specimens, except in thoracic segments of sheep. The human spinal canal was wider and deeper in the anteroposterior plane than any of the animals. The mean human vertebral body width and depth were greater than that of the animals except in upper thoracic segments of the deer. However, the mean vertebral body height was lower than that of all animals. This paper provides a comprehensive review to compare vertebrae geometries of experimental animal models to the human vertebrae, and will help for choosing animal model in vivo and in vitro spine research. When the animal selected for spine research, the structural similarities and differences found in the animal studies must be kept in mind.


Comparative anatomy Animal models Human Spine 



This work is supported by a Grant from the China National Nature Fund (Grant no. 30700843).


  1. 1.
    Baramki HG, Steffen T, Lander P, Chang M, Marchesi D (2000) The efficacy of interconnected porous hydroxyapatite in achieving posterolateral lumbar fusion in sheep. Spine 25:1053–1060CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bozkus H, Crawford NR, Chamberlain RH, Valenzuela TD, Espinoza A, Yüksel Z, Dickman CA (2005) Comparative anatomy of the porcine and human thoracic spines with reference to thoracoscopic surgical techniques. Surg Endosc 19:1652–1665CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cain CC, Fraser RD (1995) Bony and vascular anatomy of the normal cervical spine in the sheep. Spine 20:759–765PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cotterill PC, Kostuik JP, D’Angelo G, Fernie GR, Maki BE (1986) An anatomical comparison of the human and bovine thoracolumbar spine. J Orthop Res 4:298–303CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Dickman CA, Crawford NR, Tominaga T, Brantley AG, Coons S, Sonntag VK (1994) Morphology and kinematics of the baboon upper cervical spine. A model of the atlantoaxial complex. Spine 15:2518–2523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Dath R, Ebinesan AD, Porter KM, Miles AW (2007) Anatomical measurements of porcine lumbar vertebrae. Clin Biomech 22:607–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gurwitz GS, Dawson JM, McNamara MJ, Federspiel CF, Spengler DM (1993) Biomechanical analysis of three surgical approaches for lumbar burst fractures using short-segment instrumentation. Spine 18:977–982CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Kandziora F, Pflugmacher R, Scholz M, Schnake K, Lucke M, Schröder R, Mittlmeier T (2001) Comparison between sheep and human cervical spines: an anatomic, radiographic, bone mineral density, and biomechanical study. Spine 26:1028–1037CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kumar N, Kukreti S, Ishaque M, Mulholland R (2000) Anatomy of deer spine and its comparison to the human spine. Anat Rec 260:189–203CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    McLain RF, Yerby SA, Moseley TA (2002) Comparative morphometry of L4 vertebrae: comparison of large animal models for the human lumbar spine. Spine 27:E200–E206CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Nagata H, Schendel MJ, Transfeldt EE, Lewis JL (1993) The effects of immobilization of long segments of the spine on the adjacent and distal facet force and lumbosacral motion. Spine 18:2471–2479CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Nuckley DJ, Van Nausdle JA, Eck MP, Ching RP (2007) Neural space and biomechanical integrity of the developing cervical spine in compression. Spine 32:E181–E187CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Panjabi MM, Duranceau J, Goel V, Oxland T, Takata K (1991) Cervical human vertebrae. Quantitative three-dimensional anatomy of the middle and lower regions. Spine 16:861–869PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Panjabi MM, Takata K, Goel V, Federico D, Oxland T, Duranceau J, Krag M (1991) Thoracic human vertebrae. Quantitative three-dimensional anatomy. Spine 16:888–901PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Panjabi MM, Goel V, Oxland T, Takata K, Duranceau J, Krag M, Price M (1992) Human lumbar vertebrae. Quantitative three-dimensional anatomy. Spine 17:299–306CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Riley LH III, Eck JC, Yoshida H, Koh YD, You JW, Lim TH (2004) A biomechanical comparison of calf versus cadaver lumbar spine models. Spine 29:E217–E220CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Scifert JL, Sairyo K, Goel VK, Grobler LJ, Grosland NM, Spratt KF, Chesmel KD (1993) Stability analysis of an enhanced load sharing posterior fixation device and its equivalent conventional device in a calf spine model. Spine 24:2206–2213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Seel EH, Davies EM (2007) A biomechanical comparison of kyphoplasty using a balloon bone tamp versus an expandable polymer bone tamp in a deer spine model. J Bone Joint Surg Br 89:253–257CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Smit TH (2002) The use of a quadruped as an in vivo model for the study of the spine-biomechanical considerations. Eur Spine J 11:137–144CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Tominaga T, Dickman CA, Sonntag VK, Coons S (1995) Comparative anatomy of the baboon and the human cervical spine. Spine 20:131–137CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    van Dijk M, Smit TH, Sugihara S, Burger EH, Wuisman PI (2002) The effect of cage stiffness on the rate of lumbar interbody fusion: an in vivo model using poly (l-lactic Acid) and titanium cages. Spine 27:682–688CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Wilcox RK, Allen DJ, Hall RM, Limb D, Barton DC, Dickson RA (2004) A dynamic investigation of the burst fracture process using a combined experimental and finite element approach. Eur Spine J 13:481–488CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Wilke HJ, Kettler A, Wenger KH, Claes LE (1997) Anatomy of the sheep spine and its comparison to the human spine. Anat Rec 247:542–555CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Yingling VR, Callaghan JP, McGill SM (1999) The porcine cervical spine as a model of the human lumbar spine: an anatomical, geometric, and functional comparison. J Spinal Disord 12:415–423PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sun-Ren Sheng
    • 1
  • Xiang-Yang Wang
    • 1
  • Hua-Zi Xu
    • 1
  • Guo-Qing Zhu
    • 2
  • Yi-Fei Zhou
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedic SurgerySecond Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical CollegeWenzhouChina
  2. 2.Wenzhou Medical CollegeWenzhouChina

Personalised recommendations