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01.12.2014 | Original Article | Ausgabe 12/2014

European Spine Journal 12/2014

Axial suspension test to assess pre-operative spinal flexibility in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis

European Spine Journal > Ausgabe 12/2014
Philippe Büchler, Marcelo Elias de Oliveria, Daniel Studer, Steffen Schumann, Guoyan Zheng, Jacques Schneider, Carol C. Hasler



An accurate description of the biomechanical behavior of the spine is crucial for the planning of scoliotic surgical correction as well as for the understanding of degenerative spine disorders. The current clinical assessments of spinal mechanics such as side-bending or fulcrum-bending tests rely on the displacement of the spine observed during motion of the patient. Since these tests focused solely on the spinal kinematics without considering mechanical loads, no quantification of the mechanical flexibility of the spine can be provided.


A spinal suspension test (SST) has been developed to simultaneously monitor the force applied on the spine and the induced vertebral displacements. The system relies on cervical elevation of the patient and orthogonal radiographic images are used to measure the position of the vertebras. The system has been used to quantify the spinal flexibility on five AIS patients.


Based on the SST, the overall spinal flexibility varied between 0.3 °/Nm for the patient with the stiffer curve and 2 °/Nm for the less rigid curve. A linear correlation was observed between the overall spinal flexibility and the change in Cobb angle. In addition, the segmental flexibility calculated for five segments around the apex was 0.13 ± 0.07 °/Nm, which is similar to intra-operative stiffness measurements previously published.


In summary, the SST seems suitable to provide pre-operative information on the complex functional behavior and stiffness of spinal segments under physiological loading conditions. Such tools will become increasingly important in the future due to the ever-increasing complexity of the surgical instrumentation and procedures.

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