Metamorphosis of human lumbar vertebrae induced by VEPTR growth modulation and stress shielding

Hasler, Carol C; Studer, Daniel; Büchler, Philippe (2015). Metamorphosis of human lumbar vertebrae induced by VEPTR growth modulation and stress shielding. Journal of children's orthopaedics JCO, 9(4), pp. 287-293. Springer 10.1007/s11832-015-0677-5

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INTRODUCTION Distraction-based spinal growth modulation by growing rods or vertical expandable prosthetic titanium ribs (VEPTRs) is the mainstay of instrumented operative strategies to correct early onset spinal deformities. In order to objectify the benefits, it has become common sense to measure the gain in spine height by assessing T1-S1 distance on anteroposterior (AP) radiographs. However, by ignoring growth changes on vertebral levels and by limiting measurement to one plane, valuable data is missed regarding the three-dimensional (3D) effects of growth modulation. This information might be interesting when it comes to final fusion or, even more so, when the protective growing implants are removed and the spine re-exposed to physiologic forces at the end of growth. METHODS The goal of this retrospective radiographic study was to assess the growth modulating impact of year-long, distraction-based VEPTR treatment on the morphology of single vertebral bodies. We digitally measured lumbar vertebral body height (VBH) and upper endplate depth (VBD) at the time of the index procedure and at follow-up in nine patients with rib-to-ileum constructs (G1) spanning an anatomically normal lumbar spine. Nine patients with congenital thoracic scoliosis and VEPTR rib-to-rib constructs, but uninstrumented lumbar spines, served as controls (G2). All had undergone more than eight half-yearly VEPTR expansions. A Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used for statistical comparison of initial and follow-up VBH, VBD and height/depth (H/D) ratio (significance level 0.05). RESULTS The average age was 7.1 years (G1) and 5.2 year (G2, p > 0.05) at initial surgery; the average overall follow-up time was 5.5 years (p = 1). In both groups, VBH increased significantly without a significant intergroup difference. Group 1 did not show significant growth in depth, whereas VBD increased significantly in the control group. As a consequence, the H/D ratio increased significantly in group 1 whereas it remained unchanged in group 2. The growth rate for height in mm/year was 1.4 (group 1) and 1.1 (group 2, p = 0.45), and for depth, it was -0.3 and 1.1 (p < 0.05), respectively. CONCLUSIONS VEPTR growth modulating treatment alters the geometry of vertebral bodies by increasing the H/D ratio. We hypothesize that the implant-related deprivation from axial loads (stress-shielding) impairs anteroposterior growth. The biomechanical consequence of such slender vertebrae when exposed to unprotected loads in case of definitive VEPTR removal at the end of growth is uncertain.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute for Surgical Technology & Biomechanics ISTB [discontinued]

UniBE Contributor:

Büchler, Philippe


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Philippe Büchler

Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2016 10:04

Last Modified:

17 Feb 2016 10:04

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