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Primary Publication
Bruno AG, Bouxsein ML, Anderson DE. Development and Validation of a Musculoskeletal Model of the Fully Articulated Thoracolumbar Spine and Rib Cage. Journal of Biomechanical Engineering. 137(8), 081003, 2015 Aug 1. doi: 10.1115/1.4030408. (2015)  View

We developed and validated a fully articulated model of the thoracolumbar spine in opensim that includes the individual vertebrae, ribs, and sternum. To ensure trunk muscles in the model accurately represent muscles in vivo, we used a novel approach to adjust muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) and position using computed tomography (CT) scans of the trunk sampled from a community-based cohort. Model predictions of vertebral compressive loading and trunk muscle tension were highly correlated to previous in vivo measures of intradiscal pressure (IDP), vertebral loading from telemeterized implants and trunk muscle myoelectric activity recorded by electromyography (EMG).

Related Publications
Bruno AG, Mokhtarzadeh H, Allaire BT, Velie KR, De Paolis Kaluza MC, Anderson DE and Bouxsein ML. Incorporation of CT-based measurements of trunk anatomy into subject-specific musculoskeletal models of the spine influences vertebral loading predictions. Journal of Orthopedic Research (e-pub ahead of print 16 January 2017). doi: 10.1002/jor.23524 (2017)  View

We created subject-specific musculoskeletal models of the thoracolumbar spine by incorporating spine curvature and muscle morphology measurements from computed tomography (CT) scans to determine the degree to which vertebral compressive and shear loading estimates are sensitive to variations in trunk anatomy. We measured spine curvature and trunk muscle morphology using spine CT scans of 125 men, and then created four different thoracolumbar spine models for each person: (i) height and weight adjusted (Ht/Wt models); (ii) height, weight, and spine curvature adjusted (+C models); (iii) height, weight, and muscle morphology adjusted (+M models); and (iv) height, weight, spine curvature, and muscle morphology adjusted (+CM models). We determined vertebral compressive and shear loading at three regions of the spine (T8, T12, and L3) for four different activities. Vertebral compressive loads predicted by the subject-specific CT-based musculoskeletal models were between 54% lower to 45% higher from those estimated using musculoskeletal models adjusted only for subject height and weight. The impact of subject-specific information on vertebral loading estimates varied with the activity and spinal region. Vertebral loading estimates were more sensitive to incorporation of subject-specific spinal curvature than subject-specific muscle morphology. Our results indicate that individual variations in spine curvature and trunk muscle morphology can have a major impact on estimated vertebral compressive and shear loads, and thus should be accounted for when estimating subject-specific vertebral loading.

Bruno AG, Burkhart KA, Allaire BT, Anderson DE and Bouxsein ML. Spinal loading patterns from biomechanical modeling explain high incidence of vertebral fractures in the thoracolumbar region. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 2017; 32(6): 1282-1290. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.3113 (2017)  View

Vertebral fractures occur most frequently in the mid-thoracic and thoracolumbar regions of the spine, yet the reasons for this site-specific occurrence are not known. Our working hypothesis is that the locations of vertebral fracture may be explained by the pattern of spine loading, such that during daily activities the mid-thoracic and thoracolumbar regions experience preferentially higher mechanical loading compared to other spine regions. To test this hypothesis, we used a female musculoskeletal model of the full thoracolumbar spine and rib cage to estimate the variation in vertebral compressive loads and associated factor-of-risk (load-to-strength ratio) throughout the spine for 119 activities of daily living, while also parametrically varying spine curvature (high, average, low, and zero thoracic kyphosis models). We found that nearly all activities produced loading peaks in the thoracolumbar and lower lumbar regions of the spine, but that the highest factor-of-risk values generally occurred in the thoracolumbar region of the spine because these vertebrae had lower compressive strength than vertebrae in the lumbar spine. The peaks in compressive loading and factor-of-risk in the thoracolumbar region were accentuated by increasing thoracic kyphosis. Activation of the multifidus muscle fascicles selectively in the thoracolumbar region appeared to be the main contributor to the relatively high vertebral compressive loading in the thoracolumbar spine. In summary, by using advanced musculoskeletal modeling to estimate vertebral loading throughout the spine, this study provides a biomechanical mechanism for the higher incidence of fractures in thoracolumbar vertebrae compared to other spinal regions.

Burkhart, K. A., Bruno, A. G., Bouxsein, M. L., Bean, J. F. and Anderson, D. E. (2017), Estimating apparent maximum muscle stress of trunk extensor muscles in older adults using subject-specific musculoskeletal models. J. Orthop. Res.. doi: 10.1002/jor.23630 (2017)  View

Maximum muscle stress (MMS) is a critical parameter in musculoskeletal modeling, defining the maximum force that a muscle of given size can produce. However, a wide range of MMS values have been reported in literature, and few studies have estimated MMS in trunk muscles. Due to widespread use of musculoskeletal models in studies of the spine and trunk, there is a need to determine reasonable magnitude and range of trunk MMS. We measured trunk extension strength in 49 participants over 65 years of age, surveyed participants about low back pain, and acquired quantitative computed tomography (QCT) scans of their lumbar spines. Trunk muscle morphology was assessed from QCT scans and used to create a subject-specific musculoskeletal model for each participant. Model-predicted extension strength was computed using a trunk muscle MMS of 100 N/cm2. The MMS of each subject-specific model was then adjusted until the measured strength matched the model-predicted strength (±20 N). We found that measured trunk extension strength was significantly higher in men. With the initial constant MMS value, the musculoskeletal model generally over-predicted trunk extension strength. By adjusting MMS on a subject-specific basis, we found apparent MMS values ranging from 40 to 130 N/cm2, with an average of 75.5 N/cm2 for both men and women. Subjects with low back pain had lower apparent MMS than subjects with no back pain. This work incorporates a unique approach to estimate subject-specific trunk MMS values via musculoskeletal modeling and provides a useful insight into MMS variation.