Identifying spinal instability is an important aim for proper surgical treatment. Analysis of functional X-ray images delivers measurements of the range of motion (RoM) and the center of rotation (CoR). In today's practice, CoR determination is often omitted, due to the lack of accurate methods. The aim of this work was to investigate the accuracy of a new analysis software (FXA™) based on an in vitro experiment. Six bovine spinal specimens (L3-4) were mounted in a robot (KR125, Kuka). CoRs were predefined by locking the robot actuator tool center point to the estimated position of the physiologic CoR and taking a baseline X-ray. Specimens were deflected to various RoM(preset) flexion/extension angles about the CoR(preset). Lateral functional radiographs were acquired and specimen movements were recorded using an optical motion tracking system (Optotrak Certus). RoM and CoR errors were calculated from presets for both methods. Prior to the experiment, the FXA™ software was verified with artificially generated images. For the artificial images, FXA™ yielded a mean RoM-error of 0.01 ± 0.03° (bias ± standard deviation). In the experiment, RoM-error of the FXA™-software (deviation from presets) was 0.04 ± 0.13°, and 0.10 ± 0.16° for the Optotrak, respectively. Both correlated with 0.998 (p < 0.001). For RoM < 1.0°, FXA™ determined CoR positions with a bias>20mm. This bias progressively decreased from RoM = 1° (bias = 6.0mm) to RoM = 9° (bias<1.5mm). Under the assumption that CoR location variances <5mm are clinically irrelevant on the lumbar spine, the FXA™ method can accurately determine CoRs for RoMs > 1°. Utilizing FXA™, polysegmental RoMs, CoRs and implant migration measurements could be performed in daily practice.
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