Cervical disc replacement-porous coated motion prosthesis: a comparative biomechanical analysis showing the key role of the posterior longitudinal ligament

Paul C McAfee, Bryan Cunningham, Anton Dmitriev, Niabin Hu, Seok Woo Kim, Andy Cappuccino, Luiz Pimenta
Spine 2003 October 15, 28 (20): S176-85

STUDY DESIGN: Benchtop cadaveric biomechanical comparative testing and caprine animal model in vivo implantation.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the role of the posterior longitudinal ligament in cervical arthroplasty and to understand the relative contribution of this ligament in nonfusion applications.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Rauschning refers to the posterior longitudinal ligament as "The Kleenex Ligament" due to its apparent anatomic insignificance. White and Panjabi found the posterior longitudinal ligament ranked only fourth in importance in tensile load-to-failure biomechanical testing. In the postoperative situation following anterior cervical diskectomy fusion, posterior longitudinal ligament integrity is overlooked by physicians because the entire disc space usually fuses into a homogeneous block of bone.

PURPOSE: This biomechanical study was undertaken to determine the relative importance of the posterior longitudinal ligament following two different degrees of anterior decompression, anterior disc replacement, and anterior arthrodesis procedures.

METHODS: A total of seven fresh frozen human cadaveric cervical spines (C3-C7) (mean age 68 +/- 19 years) were used for biomechanical testing. Each vertebra was equipped with three non-colinear light emitting diodes designed for detection by an optoelectronic motion measurement system (3020 Optotract System). To determine the multidirectional flexibility, six pure moments (flexion, extension, right + left lateral bending, right + left axial rotation) and axial compression were applied using a servohydraulic 858 Bionix testing device configured with a six-degree-of-freedom spine simulator. Range of motion was defined as the peak displacement from the initial neutral position to the maximum load, whereas the neutral zone represents the motion from the initial neutral position to the unloaded position at the beginning of the third cycle. Seven groups of (N = 7 each) constructs at C5-C6 were: 1) intact "native" C5-C6 level; 2) anterior diskectomy (posterior longitudinal ligament intact); 3) a Low Profile Porous Coated Motion cervical disc replacement; 4) posterior longitudinal ligament resected; 5) Porous Coated Motion cervical disc replacement fixed with anterior flanges and screws; 6) tricortical structural allograft; and 7) an anterior cervical translational plate + allograft. The caprine model was evaluated for suitability as an animal model with 12 goats undergoing C3-C4 anterior cervical Porous Coated Motion disc replacement.

RESULTS: Group 2 (anterior diskectomy alone) was significantly more stable than Group 4 (anterior diskectomy + posterior longitudinal ligament resection) in flexion-extension, 18.7 +/- 4.76 degrees versus 24.8 +/- 4.42 degrees (P < 0.05) and in lateral bending, 5.9 +/- 1.79 degrees versus 10.7 +/- 2.8 degrees (P < 0.05). The comparison for the two conditions for axial rotation, 10.4 +/- 13.9 degrees versus 13.9 +/- 2.7 degrees, and axial compression, 1.19 +/-.98 degrees versus 1.52 +/- 1.14 degrees, showed the same trend. Twelve goats undergoing porous coated motion cervical disc replacement had no evidence of prosthesis loosening, neurologic complications, or experienced inflammatory reactions from particulate wear debris after 6 months of implantation.

DISCUSSION: This study confirms the pivotal role of the posterior longitudinal ligament in postsurgical stability of the cervical spine following anterior diskectomy. This is because the lateral anulus, uncovertebral ligaments, and lateral capsular ligaments are stretched and plastically deformed in the surgical distraction process of restoring the disc space height following anterior surgical decompression. There should be a separate determination of the range of motion of cervical disc replacements depending of the integrity and the amount of the posterior longitudinal ligament that has been resected.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: There are two basic types of total knee replacements, posterior cruciate ligament-preserving and posterior cruciate ligament-sacrificing designs. In the cervical spine, an analogous situation exists biomechanically depending on whether the posterior longitudinal ligament needs to be removed in its entirety as part of the spinal cord decompression part of the procedure--it may be helpful to conceptually differentiate between posterior longitudinal ligament-preserving and posterior longitudinal ligament-sacrificing total cervical disc replacements.

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