Sacral spinous processes: a morphologic classification and biomechanical characterization of strength.

Abstract

BACKGROUND There has been increasing interest in using the lumbosacral spinous processes for fixation as a less invasive alternative to transpedicular instrumentation. Alhough prior studies have described the appearance and biomechanics of lumbar spinous processes, few have evaluated the dimensions, morphology, or strength of the sacral spinous processes. PURPOSE The goals of this study were to characterize the morphology of the S1 spinous process and biomechanical strength of the S1 spinous process when loaded in a cranial direction. STUDY DESIGN This study was performed as both an analysis of radiographic data and biomechanical testing of cadaveric specimens. METHODS Lumbosacral spine radiographs and computed tomography scans of 20 patients were evaluated for visibility and morphology of the S1 spinous process. S1 spinous process length, height, and size of the L5-S1 segment were measured. Additionally, 13 cadaveric lumbosacral spinal segments were obtained for biomechanical testing and morphologic analysis. Specimens were loaded at the S1 spinous process in a cranial direction via a strap, simulating resistance to a flexion moment applied across the L5-S1 segment. Peak load to failure, displacement, and mode of failure were recorded. RESULTS The S1 spinous process was clearly visible on lateral radiographs in only 10% of patients. Mean spinous process length (anterior-posterior) was 11.6 mm while mean spinous process height (cranial-caudal) was 23.1 mm. We identified six different morphologic subtypes of the S1 spinous process: fin, lumbar type, fenestrated, fused, tubercle, and spina bifida occulta. During tension loading of the S1 spinous process in the cephalad direction, mean peak load to failure was 439N, with 92% of specimens failing by fracture through the spinous process. CONCLUSIONS This is the first study evaluating sacral spinous process morphology, visibility, and biomechanical strength for potential instrumentation. Compared with lumbar spinous processes, sacral spinous processes are smaller with more variable morphology but have similar peak load to failure. For ideal visualization of morphology and suitability for interspinous fixation,preoperative three-dimensional imaging may be a valuable tool over plain radiographs.

DOI: 10.1016/j.spinee.2015.08.058

Cite this paper

@article{Wang2015SacralSP, title={Sacral spinous processes: a morphologic classification and biomechanical characterization of strength.}, author={T. M. Wang and Louis C. Fielding and Anand Parikh and Manish Kothari and Todd F. Alamin}, journal={The spine journal : official journal of the North American Spine Society}, year={2015}, volume={15 12}, pages={2544-51} }