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An FE investigation simulating intra-operative corrective forces applied to correct scoliosis deformity

J Paige Little*, Maree T Izatt, Robert D Labrom, Geoffrey N Askin and Clayton J Adam*

Author Affiliations

Paediatric Spine Research Group, Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology and Mater Health Services Brisbane, Room O718, Gardens Point Campus, 2 George Street, Brisbane, QLD, 4001, Australia

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Scoliosis 2013, 8:9  doi:10.1186/1748-7161-8-9

Published: 16 May 2013



Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is a deformity of the spine, which may require surgical correction by attaching a rod to the patient’s spine using screws implanted in the vertebral bodies. Surgeons achieve an intra-operative reduction in the deformity by applying compressive forces across the intervertebral disc spaces while they secure the rod to the vertebra. We were interested to understand how the deformity correction is influenced by increasing magnitudes of surgical corrective forces and what tissue level stresses are predicted at the vertebral endplates due to the surgical correction.


Patient-specific finite element models of the osseoligamentous spine and ribcage of eight AIS patients who underwent single rod anterior scoliosis surgery were created using pre-operative computed tomography (CT) scans. The surgically altered spine, including titanium rod and vertebral screws, was simulated. The models were analysed using data for intra-operatively measured compressive forces – three load profiles representing the mean and upper and lower standard deviation of this data were analysed. Data for the clinically observed deformity correction (Cobb angle) were compared with the model-predicted correction and the model results investigated to better understand the influence of increased compressive forces on the biomechanics of the instrumented joints.


The predicted corrected Cobb angle for seven of the eight FE models were within the 5° clinical Cobb measurement variability for at least one of the force profiles. The largest portion of overall correction was predicted at or near the apical intervertebral disc for all load profiles. Model predictions for four of the eight patients showed endplate-to-endplate contact was occurring on adjacent endplates of one or more intervertebral disc spaces in the instrumented curve following the surgical loading steps.


This study demonstrated there is a direct relationship between intra-operative joint compressive forces and the degree of deformity correction achieved. The majority of the deformity correction will occur at or in adjacent spinal levels to the apex of the deformity. This study highlighted the importance of the intervertebral disc space anatomy in governing the coronal plane deformity correction and the limit of this correction will be when bone-to-bone contact of the opposing vertebral endplates occurs.

Scoliosis; Finite element; Surgical forces; Correction