The Biomechanics of Decompressive Laminectomy

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Abstract

The biomechanical effect of laminectomy as a means of relieving compression of the spinal cord–meningeal complex by an anterior mass was studied in ten grossly normal human cadaver spines. The basic experimental set-up involved drilling a sagittal plane hole transversely across a vertebral body to provide direct access to the anterior aspect of the neural canal. After securing a probe and linearly variable differential transformer (LVDT) assembly at each site to be tested, the probe was gently pushed into the neural canal; contact force against the tip of the probe as well as the depth of probe penetration was measured and recorded. Laminectomy did not alter the resulting contact force/anterior penetration plots at the fifth cervical, seventh thoracic, 12th thoracic, or third lumbar vertebra. Using the probe/LVDT assembly to measure anterior dural displacement and a cantilever displacement device to measure posterior dural displacement after laminectomy at the 12th thoracic vertebra, the authors found that although the anterior dura underwent gross displacement as the probe was pushed into the neural canal, the posterior dura displaced to a minimal degree. The extent of the laminectomy was not a factor. The study did not demonstrate any possible mechanism by which laminectomy could reduce the pressure exerted on the dura and neural elements by an anterior mass in a spine with otherwise normal neural canal dimensions.

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