B. Stemper, Derek Board, N. Yoganandan
Journal of Craniovertebral Junction and Spine
Background: The objective was to determine the age-dependent compressive and tensile properties of female and male thoracic spine segments using postmortem human subjects (PMHS). Materials and Methods: Forty-eight thoracic disc segments at T4-5, T6-7, T8-9, and T10-11 levels from 12 PMHS T3-T11 spinal columns were divided into groups A and B based on specimen age and loaded in compression and tension. Stiffness and elastic modulus were computed. Stiffness was defined as the slope in the linear region of the force—displacement response. Elastic modulus was defined as the slope of the stress strain curve. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used to determine significant differences (P<0.05) in the disc cross-sectional area, stiffness, and elastic modulus based on gender, spinal level, and group. Results: Specimen ages in group A (28 ± 8 years) were significantly lower than in group B (70 ± 7 years). Male discs had significantly greater area (7.2 ± 2.0 sq cm) than female discs (5.9 ± 1.8 sq cm). Tensile and compressive stiffness values were significantly different between the two age groups, but not between gender and level. Specimens in group A had greater tensile (486 ± 108 N/mm) and compressive (3300 ± 642 N/mm) stiffness values compared to group B specimens (tension: 397 ± 124 N/mm, compression: 2527 ± 734 N/mm). Tensile and compressive elastic modulus values depended upon age group and gender, but not on level. Group A specimens had significantly greater tensile and compressive moduli (2.9 ± 0.8 MPa, 19.5 ± 4.1 MPa) than group B specimens (1.7 ± 0.6 MPa, 10.6 ± 3.4 MPa). Female specimens showed significantly greater tensile and compressive moduli (2.6 ± 1.0 MPa, 16.6 ± 6.4 MPa) than male specimens (2.0 ± 0.7 MPa, 13.7 ± 5.0 MPa). Discussion: Using the two groups to represent "young" and "old" specimens, this study showed that the mechanical response decreases in older specimens, and the decrease is greater in compressive than distractive properties. While the decrease is expected, the relative change between the two modes of loading has not been reported. Another conclusion from the study is that the mechanical properties depend on gender, although not as decisive due to sample size.