Intervertebral disc mechanics are affected by both disc shape and disc degeneration, which in turn each affect the other; disc mechanics additionally have a role in the etiology of disc degeneration. Finite element analysis (FEA) is a favored tool to investigate these relationships, but limited data for intervertebral disc 3D shape has forced the use of simplified or single-subject geometries, with the effect of inter-individual shape variation investigated only in specialized studies. Similarly, most data on disc shape variation with degeneration is based on 2D mid-sagittal images, which incompletely define 3D shape changes. Therefore, the objective of this study was to quantify inter-individual disc shape variation in 3D, classify this variation into independently-occurring modes using a statistical shape model, and identify correlations between disc shape and degeneration. Three-dimensional disc shapes were obtained from MRI of 13 human male cadaver L3L4 discs. An average disc shape and four major modes of shape variation (representing 90% of the variance) were identified. The first mode represented disc axial area and was significantly correlated to degeneration (R2=0.44), indicating larger axial area in degenerate discs. Disc height variation occurred in three distinct modes, each also involving non-height variation. The statistical shape model provides an average L3L4 disc shape for FEA that is fully defined in 3D, and makes it convenient to generate a set of shapes with which to represent aggregate inter-individual variation. Degeneration grade-specific shapes can also be generated. To facilitate application, the model is included in this paper's supplemental content.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Biomedical Engineering