Digital tracking algorithm reveals the influence of structural irregularities on joint movements in the human cervical spine
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Background Disc height loss and osteophytes change the local mechanical environment in the spine; while previous research has examined kinematic dysfunction under degenerative change, none has looked at the influence of disc height loss and osteophytes throughout movement. Methods Twenty patients with pain related to the head, neck or shoulders were imaged via videofluoroscopy as they underwent sagittal-plane flexion and extension. A clinician graded disc height loss and osteophytes as “severe/moderate”, “mild”, or “none”. A novel tracking algorithm quantified motions of each vertebra. This information was used to calculate intervertebral angular and shear displacements. The digital algorithm made it practical to track individual vertebrae in multiple patients through hundreds of images without bias. Findings Cases without height loss/osteophytes had a consistent increase in intervertebral angular displacement from C2/C3 to C5/C6, like that of healthy individuals, and mild height losses did not produce aberrations that were systematic or necessarily discernable. However, joints with moderate to severe disc height loss and osteophytes exhibited reduced range of motion compared to adjacent unaffected joints in that patient and corresponding joints in patients without structural irregularities. Interpretation Digitally-obtained motion histories of individual joints allowed anatomical joint changes to be linked with changes in joint movement patterns. Specifically, disc height loss and osteophytes were found to influence cervical spine movement in the sagittal plane, reducing angular motions at affected joints by approximately 10% between those with and without height loss and osteophytes. Further, these joint changes were associated with perturbed intervertebral angular and shear movements.
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Christian Balkovec, Jim Veldhuis, John W. Baird, G. Wayne Brodland, Stuart M. McGill (2018). Digital tracking algorithm reveals the influence of structural irregularities on joint movements in the human cervical spine. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/13387
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