Rigid and flexible spinal stabilization devices: A biomechanical comparison

Fabio Galbusera, Chiara Maria Bellini, Federica Anasetti, Cristina Ciavarro, Alessio Lovi, Marco Brayda-Bruno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The surgical devices for the treatment of degenerative disc disease are based on different concepts (rods for spine fusion, ROM-restricting or load-bearing devices for dynamic stabilization). In the present work, the effects of some stabilization systems on the biomechanics of the lumbar spine were investigated by means of a finite element model of the L2-L5 spine segment. Pedicular screws and stabilization devices were added at L4-L5. Different rods were considered: stainless steel, titanium, PEEK and the composite ostaPek. Two pedicular devices aimed at motion preservation were also considered: the FlexPLUS and the DSS. All models were loaded by using the hybrid protocol in flexion, extension, lateral bending and axial rotation. The spine biomechanics after implantation resulted significantly sensitive to the design and the materials of the device. The impact of all rods in reducing the ROM was found to be critical (>70% in flexion and extension). The dynamic devices were able to preserve the motion of the segment, but with different performances (ROM reduction from 30% (DSS) to 50% (FlexPLUS)). The shared load was more sensitive to the elastic modulus of the device material than the calculated ROMs (from 7% (PEEK) to 48% (stainless steel)). Regarding devices aimed at motion preservation, the authors suggest to distinguish " flexible" devices, which are able to preserve only a minor fraction (e.g. at most 50%) of the physiological ROM, from " dynamic" devices, which induce a smaller ROM restriction. However, the optimal characteristics of a stabilization device for the treatment of degenerative disc disease still need to be determined by means of basic science and clinical studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-496
Number of pages7
JournalMedical Engineering and Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


  • Dynamic stabilization
  • Finite element
  • Flexible
  • Low back pain
  • Semirigid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biophysics


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