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Finite Element Analysis for Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy: Scoping Review of the Current Findings and Design Approaches, Including Recommendations on the Choice of Material Properties

  • Davies, Benjamin
  • Schaefer, Samuel
  • Rafati Fard, Amir
  • Newcombe, Virginia
  • Sutcliffe, Michael
Publication Date
Apr 12, 2024
Apollo - University of Cambridge Repository
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<jats:sec> <jats:title>Background</jats:title> <jats:p>Degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM) is a slow-motion spinal cord injury caused via chronic mechanical loading by spinal degenerative changes. A range of different degenerative changes can occur. Finite element analysis (FEA) can predict the distribution of mechanical stress and strain on the spinal cord to help understand the implications of any mechanical loading. One of the critical assumptions for FEA is the behavior of each anatomical element under loading (ie, its material properties).</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title>Objective</jats:title> <jats:p>This scoping review aims to undertake a structured process to select the most appropriate material properties for use in DCM FEA. In doing so, it also provides an overview of existing modeling approaches in spinal cord disease and clinical insights into DCM.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title>Methods</jats:title> <jats:p>We conducted a scoping review using qualitative synthesis. Observational studies that discussed the use of FEA models involving the spinal cord in either health or disease (including DCM) were eligible for inclusion in the review. We followed the PRISMA-ScR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews) guidelines. The MEDLINE and Embase databases were searched to September 1, 2021. This was supplemented with citation searching to retrieve the literature used to define material properties. Duplicate title and abstract screening and data extraction were performed. The quality of evidence was appraised using the quality assessment tool we developed, adapted from the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale, and shortlisted with respect to DCM material properties, with a final recommendation provided. A qualitative synthesis of the literature is presented according to the Synthesis Without Meta-Analysis reporting guidelines.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title>Results</jats:title> <jats:p>A total of 60 papers were included: 41 (68%) “FEA articles” and 19 (32%) “source articles.” Most FEA articles (33/41, 80%) modeled the gray matter and white matter separately, with models typically based on tabulated data or, less frequently, a hyperelastic Ogden variant or linear elastic function. Of the 19 source articles, 14 (74%) were identified as describing the material properties of the spinal cord, of which 3 (21%) were considered most relevant to DCM. Of the 41 FEA articles, 15 (37%) focused on DCM, of which 9 (60%) focused on ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament. Our aggregated results of DCM FEA indicate that spinal cord loading is influenced by the pattern of degenerative changes, with decompression alone (eg, laminectomy) sufficient to address this as opposed to decompression combined with other procedures (eg, laminectomy and fusion).</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title>Conclusions</jats:title> <jats:p>FEA is a promising technique for exploring the pathobiology of DCM and informing clinical care. This review describes a structured approach to help future investigators deploy FEA for DCM. However, there are limitations to these recommendations and wider uncertainties. It is likely that these will need to be overcome to support the clinical translation of FEA to DCM.</jats:p> </jats:sec>

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