Comparative anatomical dimensions of the complete human and porcine spine

Eur Spine J. 2010 Jul;19(7):1104-14. doi: 10.1007/s00586-010-1326-9. Epub 2010 Feb 26.


New spinal implants and surgical procedures are often tested pre-clinically on human cadaver spines. However, the availability of fresh frozen human cadaver material is very limited and alternative animal spines are more easily available in all desired age groups, and have more uniform geometrical and biomechanical properties. The porcine spine is said to be the most representative model for the human spine but a complete anatomical comparison is lacking. The goal of this descriptive study was to compare the anatomical dimensions of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae of the human and porcine spine in order to determine whether the porcine spine can be a representative model for the human spine. CT scans were made of 6 human and 6 porcine spines, and 16 anatomical dimensions were measured per individual vertebrae. Comparisons were made for the absolute values of the dimensions, for the patterns of the dimensions within four spinal regions, and normalised values of the dimensions within each individual vertebra. Similarities were found in vertebral body height, shape of the end-plates, shape of the spinal canal, and pedicle size. Furthermore, regional trends were comparable for all dimensions, except for spinal canal depth and spinous processus angle. The size of the end-plates increased more caudally in the human spine. Relating the dimensions to the size of the vertebral body, similarities were found in the size of the spinal canal, the transverse processus length, and size of the pedicles. Taking scaling differences into account, it is believed that the porcine spine can be a representative anatomical model for the human spine in specific research questions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Radiography
  • Spine / anatomy & histology*
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Swine