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Biomechanical evaluation of the New Zealand white rabbit lumbar spine: a physiologic characterization

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Physiologic motions of the human, sheep, and calf lumbar spines have been well characterized. The size, cost, and ease of care all make the rabbit an attractive alternative choice for an animal lumbar spine model. However, comparisons of normal biomechanical characteristics of the rabbit lumbar spine have not been made to the spines of larger species. The purpose of this study was to establish baseline physiologic kinematic data for the rabbit lumbar spine. Ten skeletally mature New Zealand white rabbit osteoligamentous spines were obtained. L4-L7 spine segments were harvested and mounted. Multi-directional flexibility testing was performed by applying pure moments up to 0.27 Nm. Resulting rotations were measured using an Optotrak system. Data were analyzed for each intervertebral level in the three planes of rotation. The three levels tested had roughly similar range of motion (ROM). The mean (SD) angular ROMs in flexion for L4-L5, L5-L6, L6-L7 were 12.10° (2.59°), 12.38° (2.70°), and 15.17° (3.22°), respectively. The ROMs in extension were 5.86° (1.21°), 5.58° (1.48°), and 6.13° (2.03°). Lateral bending and axial rotation were roughly symmetric due to the symmetric nature of the spine. For right lateral bending, the ROMs were 8.25° (2.44°), 4.96° (1.70°), and 4.25° (1.20°). For left axial rotation, the ROMs were 1.23° (1.16°), 0.35° (0.61°), 0.87° (0.64°). Neutral zone (NZ) was on average 60% (29%) of ROM for the motions studied. The physiologic ROM of the New Zealand white rabbit lumbar spine was found to be similar between the rabbit and human. This relatively conserved physiologic flexibility supports the use of the rabbit as a model of the lumbar spine for kinematic studies. However, the overall NZ was found to be a greater percentage of ROM in the rabbit than the corresponding percentage in the human (60% as compared to 25%). This suggested that the rabbit lumbar spine has a greater laxity than that of the human.

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Received: 23 August 1999 Revised: 15 December 1999 Accepted: 26 January 2000

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Grauer, J., Erulkar, J., Patel, T. et al. Biomechanical evaluation of the New Zealand white rabbit lumbar spine: a physiologic characterization. E Spine J 9, 250–255 (2000).

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