Accuracy and repeatability of a new method for measuring facet loads in the lumbar spine

J Biomech. 2006;39(2):348-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2004.12.011.


We assessed the repeatability and accuracy of a relatively new, resistance-based sensor (Tekscan 6900) for measuring lumbar spine facet loads, pressures, and contact areas in cadaver specimens. Repeatability of measurements in the natural facet joint was determined for five trials of four specimens loaded in pure moment (+/- 7.5 N m) flexibility tests in axial rotation and flexion-extension. Accuracy of load measurements in four joints was assessed by applying known compressive loads of 25, 50, and 100 N to the natural facet joint in a materials testing machine and comparing the known applied load to the measured load. Measurements of load were obtained using two different calibration approaches: linear and two-point calibrations. Repeatability for force, pressure, and area (average of standard deviation as a percentage of the mean for all trials over all specimens) was 4-6% for axial rotation and 7-10% for extension. Peak resultant force in axial rotation was 30% smaller when calculated using the linear calibration method. The Tekscan sensor overestimated the applied force by 18 +/- 9% (mean+/-standard deviation), 35 +/- 7% and 50 +/- 9% for compressive loads of 100, 50, and 25 N, respectively. The two-point method overestimated the loads by 35 +/- 16%, 45 +/- 7%, and 56 +/- 10% for the same three loads. Our results show that the Tekscan sensor is repeatable. However, the sensor measurement range is not optimal for the small loads transmitted by the facets and measurement accuracy is highly dependent on calibration protocol.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / instrumentation*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / methods
  • Cadaver
  • Elasticity
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Transducers*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology
  • Zygapophyseal Joint / physiology*