The stability of long-segment and short-segment fixation for treating severe burst fractures at the thoracolumbar junction in osteoporotic bone: A finite element analysis

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The majority of compressive vertebral fractures in osteoporotic bone occur at the level of the thoracolumbar junction. Immediate decompression is often required in order to reduce the extent of neurological damage. This study evaluated four fixation methods for decompression in patients with thoracolumbar burst fractures, and presented the most suitable method for osteoporotic patients. A finite element model of a T7-L5 spinal segment was created and subjected to an L1 corpectomy to simulate a serious burst fracture. Five models were tested: a) intact spine; 2) two segment fixation (TSF), 3) up-three segment fixation (UTSF), below-three segment fixation (BTSF), and four segment fixation (FSF). The ROM, stiffness and compression ratio of the fractured vertebra were recorded under various loading conditions. The results of this study showed that the ROM of the FSF model was the lowest, and the ROMs of UTSF and BTSF models were similar but still greater than the TSF model. Decreasing the BMD to simulate osteoporotic bone resulted in a ROM for the four instrumented models that was higher than the normal bone model. Of all models, the FSF model had the highest stiffness at T12-L2 in extension and lateral bending. Similarly, the compression ratio of the FSF model at L1 was also higher than the other instrumented models. In conclusion, FSF fixation is suggested for patients with osteoporotic thoracolumbar burst fractures. For patients with normal bone quality, both UTSF and BTSF fixation provide an acceptable stiffness in extension and lateral bending, as well as a favorable compression ratio at L1.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0211676
JournalPLoS One
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2019



  • Biomechanical Phenomena/physiology
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal/methods
  • Fractures, Compression/surgery
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae/surgery
  • Osteoporosis/surgery
  • Osteoporotic Fractures/surgery
  • Spinal Fractures/surgery
  • Thoracic Vertebrae/surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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