Aim: The radiographic method remains the main imaging technique for the physiological, anatomical and possibly pathological analysis of the spine thanks to its ease of use, precision and reliability. Despite this, the technique is inadequate for functional and dynamic studies. This paper aims to apply a dedicated noninvasive methodology based on optoelectronic techniques for the functional evaluation of the lumbar spine.
Methods: A reference data set for typical movements (i.e. flexion/extension, lateral bending, axial rotation) of the lumbar spine has been developed. Twenty healthy subjects have been recruited (10 males and 10 females) to create the databases of healthy subjects; one subject who suffers from lumbar spine diseases has been analyzed and his mobility has been compared to healthy subjects.
Results: Two databases have been created: in the former, the entire movement is normalized in time with respect to its duration; in the latter, all movements are classified in characteristic phases and each single phase is normalized to a defined duration. These databases include both the global movement of the lumbar tract of the spine and the movement of the single functional units (2 vertebrae, the intervertebral disk and the intervening surrounding soft tissues). Moreover, these databases are divided into male and female databases according to the natural differences in range of motion and pattern of movement. A clinical application for pathologic subjects is shown demonstrating the applicability and usability of this protocol.
Conclusion: This method allows to assess both the quality and the quantity of lumbar spine movement (both global and metameric level) of the subject and to distinguish the patient from the healthy subject.