Advancing Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy Management: Development of an Actuated Cervical Spine Model

Rajan Vraitch, Jacob Smithies, Princess Obinuke, Patrick Geoghegan, Xianghong Ma, Eirini Theodosiou, Francesco Giorgio-Serchi, Adrian Gardner, Jean-Baptiste R. G. Souppez

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM) is a prevalent yet often underdiagnosed condition, affecting an estimated 2% of the global adult population and 5% of individuals over the age of 40. Despite its prevalence, uncertainties persist regarding the most effective strategies for long-term management and treatment of DCM. Consequently, this work aims to develop an innovative actuated, physical model of the cervical vertebral column, paving the way for data-driven patient-specific surgical management and enhanced patient care.

A model of the cervical spine (C1-C7) was 3D printed. Mechanical testing was undertaken on both single material plastic and plastic blends, the latter intended to emulate the mechanical properties of natural disc tissue. Mechanical actuators were used to articulate the cervical spine model, while pneumatic actuators, operating at air pressures from 0.00 MPa to 0.60 MPa, were employed to vary the stiffness, thus replicating the effects of DCM. The physical model was then tuned to replicate the expected behaviour and range of motion.

Here we present (i) the additive manufacturing of a full scale, physical model of the cervical spine; (ii) mechanical testing of 3D printed materials to replicate the properties of intervertebral discs for varying age groups; (iii) the integration of tendon and pneumatic actuators, simulating both the dynamic movements and the natural range of motion of the cervical spine; and (iv) a detailed quantification of the cervical motion of the physical model compared to an actual spine.

These novel findings pave the way towards a complete physical model of the human spine, to support DCM management and surgical intervention strategies. Importantly, this research lays the foundation for patient-specific spinal models, enhancing clinical applicability and individualised management strategies and treatments. It is envisaged this approach may inform surgical decisions, improve patient outcomes, and potentially reduce treatment times and healthcare costs.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2024


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