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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013, Article ID 705185, 18 pages
Research Article

Development and Kinematic Verification of a Finite Element Model for the Lumbar Spine: Application to Disc Degeneration

1Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Zaragoza, 50018 Zaragoza, Spain
2Department of Surgery, University of Zaragoza, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain
3Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology, Miguel Servet University Hospital, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain
4Aragón Health Sciences Institute, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain
5Engineering and Architecture School, University of Zaragoza, María de Luna 3, 50018 Zaragoza, Spain

Received 7 August 2012; Accepted 30 October 2012

Academic Editor: José M. Vilar

Copyright © 2013 Elena Ibarz et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The knowledge of the lumbar spine biomechanics is essential for clinical applications. Due to the difficulties to experiment on living people and the irregular results published, simulation based on finite elements (FE) has been developed, making it possible to adequately reproduce the biomechanics of the lumbar spine. A 3D FE model of the complete lumbar spine (vertebrae, discs, and ligaments) has been developed. To verify the model, radiological images (X-rays) were taken over a group of 25 healthy, male individuals with average age of 27.4 and average weight of 78.6 kg with the corresponding informed consent. A maximum angle of 34.40° is achieved in flexion and of 35.58° in extension with a flexion-extension angle of 69.98°. The radiological measurements were 33.94 ± 4.91°, 38.73 ± 4.29°, and 72.67°, respectively. In lateral bending, the maximum angles were 19.33° and 23.40 ± 2.39, respectively. In rotation a maximum angle of 9.96° was obtained. The model incorporates a precise geometrical characterization of several elements (vertebrae, discs, and ligaments), respecting anatomical features and being capable of reproducing a wide range of physiological movements. Application to disc degeneration (L5-S1) allows predicting the affection in the mobility of the different lumbar segments, by means of parametric studies for different ranges of degeneration.