Biomechanics of cervical facet dislocation

Traffic Inj Prev. 2008 Dec;9(6):606-11. doi: 10.1080/15389580802344804.


Objectives: The goal of this study was to compute the dynamic neck loads during simulated high-speed bilateral facet dislocation and investigate the injury mechanism.

Methods: Ten osteoligamentous functional spinal units (C3/4, n = 4; C5/6, n = 3; C7/T1, n = 3) were prepared with muscle force replication, motion tracking flags, and a 3.3-kg mass rigidly attached to the upper vertebra. Frontal impacts of increasing severity were applied to the lower vertebra until dislocation was achieved. Inverse dynamics was used to calculate the dynamic neck loads during dislocation. Average peak impact acceleration required to cause dislocation ranged between 7.6 and 11.6 g. This resulted in dynamic neck loads applied at average peak rates of 906 Nm/s for flexion moment, 8017 N/ for anterior shear, and 8100 N/s for axial compression. To determine the temporal event patterns, the average occurrence times of the load and motion peaks were statistically compared (P <0.05).

Results: Among average peak loads, axial compression of 233.6 N was first to occur followed by anterior shear force of 73.1 N and flexion moment of 30.7 Nm. Among average peak motions, axial separation of 5.3 mm was first to occur followed by flexion rotation of 63.1 degrees and anterior shear of 21.5 mm. Subsequently, average peak posterior shear force of 110.3 N was observed as the upper facet became locked in the intervertebral foramina. Average peak axial compression of 6.6 mm occurred significantly later than all preceding events.

Conclusions: During bilateral facet dislocation, the main loads included flexion moment and forces of axial compression and anterior shear. These loads caused flexion rotation, facet separation, and anterior translation of the upper facet relative to the lower. The present data help elucidate the injury mechanism of cervical facet dislocation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic*
  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cadaver
  • Cervical Vertebrae*
  • Female
  • Head Movements / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Joint Dislocations / etiology*
  • Joint Dislocations / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology
  • Zygapophyseal Joint / physiology*