Finite element (FE) models are advantageous in the study of intervertebral disc mechanics as the stress-strain distributions can be determined throughout the tissue and the applied loading and material properties can be controlled and modified. However, the complicated nature of the disc presents a challenge in developing an accurate and predictive disc model, which has led to limitations in FE geometry, material constitutive models and properties, and model validation. The objective of this study was to develop a new FE model of the intervertebral disc, to validate the model's nonlinear and time-dependent responses without tuning or calibration, and to evaluate the effect of changes in nucleus pulposus (NP), cartilaginous endplate (CEP), and annulus fibrosus (AF) material properties on the disc mechanical response. The new FE disc model utilized an analytically-based geometry. The model was created from the mean shape of human L4/L5 discs, measured from high-resolution 3D MR images and averaged using signed distance functions. Structural hyperelastic constitutive models were used in conjunction with biphasic-swelling theory to obtain material properties from recent tissue tests in confined compression and uniaxial tension. The FE disc model predictions fit within the experimental range (mean±95% confidence interval) of the disc's nonlinear response for compressive slow loading ramp, creep, and stress-relaxation simulations. Changes in NP and CEP properties affected the neutral-zone displacement but had little effect on the final stiffness during slow-ramp compression loading. These results highlight the need to validate FE models using the disc's full nonlinear response in multiple loading scenarios.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Biomedical Engineering