Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 781–790 | Cite as

Extra-fibrillar matrix mechanics of annulus fibrosus in tension and compression

  • Daniel H. Cortes
  • Dawn M. ElliottEmail author
Original Paper


The annulus fibrosus (AF) of the disk is a highly nonlinear and anisotropic material that undergoes a complex combination of loads in multiple orientations. The tensile mechanical behavior of AF in the lamellar plane is dominated by collagen fibers and has been accurately modeled using exponential functions. On the other hand, AF mechanics perpendicular to the lamella, in the radial direction, depend on the properties of the ground matrix with little to no fiber contribution. The ground matrix is mainly composed of proteoglycans (PG), which are negatively charged macromolecules that maintain the tissue hydration via osmotic pressure. The mechanical response of the ground matrix can be divided in the contribution of osmotic pressure and an elastic solid part known as extra-fibrillar matrix (EFM). Mechanical properties of the ground matrix have been measured using tensile and confined compression tests. However, EFM mechanics have not been measured directly. The objective of this study was to measure AF nonlinear mechanics of the EFM in tension and compression. To accomplish this, a combination of osmotic swelling and confined compression in disk radial direction, perpendicular to the lamella, was used. For this type of analysis, it was necessary to define a stress-free reference configuration. Thus, a brief analysis on residual stress in the disk and a procedure to estimate the reference configuration are presented. The proposed method was able to predict similar swelling deformations when using different loading protocols and models for the EFM, demonstrating its robustness. The stress–stretch curve of the EFM was linear in the range 0.9 < λ3 < 1.3 with an aggregate modulus of 10.18±3.32 kPa; however, a significant nonlinearity was observed for compression below 0.8. The contribution of the EFM to the total aggregate modulus of the AF decreased from 70 to 30% for an applied compression of 50% of the initial thickness. The properties obtained in this study are essential for constitutive and finite element models of the AF and disk and can be applied to differentiate between functional degeneration effects such as PG loss and stiffening due to cross-linking.


Annulus fibrosus Extra-fibrillar matrix Confined compression Osmotic swelling Residual stress Intervertebral disc 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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