Kinematics of the upper cervical spine in rotation: in vivo three-dimensional analysis

Takahiro Ishii, Yoshihiro Mukai, Noboru Hosono, Hironobu Sakaura, Yoshikazu Nakajima, Yoshinobu Sato, Kazuomi Sugamoto, Hideki Yoshikawa
Spine 2004 April 1, 29 (7): E139-44

STUDY DESIGN: Kinematics of the upper cervical spine during head rotation were investigated using three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in healthy volunteers.

OBJECTIVES: To demonstrate in vivo intervertebral coupled motions of the upper cervical spine.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Although various in vivo and in vitro studies have identified the normal movement patterns of the upper cervical spine, no previous studies have accurately analyzed in vivo three-dimensional intervertebral motions of the upper cervical spine during head rotation.

METHODS: Fifteen healthy volunteers underwent three-dimensional MRI of the upper cervical spine using a 1.0-T imager in progressive 15 degrees steps during head rotation. Segmented three-dimensional MRIs of each vertebra in the neutral position were superimposed over images taken at other positions, using voxel-based registration. Relative motions between occiput (Oc) and atlas (C1) and between C1 and axis (C2) were measured and described with 6 degrees of freedom by rigid body Euler angles and translations.

RESULTS: Mean (+/- SD) maximum angles of axial rotation in Oc-C1 and C1-C2 were 1.7 +/- 1.5 degrees and 36.2 +/- 4.5 degrees to each side, respectively. Increases in angle of axial rotation in C1-C2 became smaller with increased head rotation, indicating axial rotation in C1-C2 displayed nonlinear motion. Coupled lateral bending with axial rotation was observed in the direction opposition to that of axial rotation in Oc-C1 (mean, 4.1 +/- 1.4 degrees) and C1-C2 (mean, 3.8 +/- 3.0 degrees). Coupled extension with axial rotation occurred at both C0-C1 (mean, 13.3 +/- 4.9 degrees) and C1-C2 (mean, 6.9 +/- 3.0 degrees).

CONCLUSIONS: We developed an innovative in vivo three-dimensional motion analysis system using three-dimensional MRI. In vivo coupled motions of the upper cervical spine investigated using this system supported the results of the previous in vitro study.

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