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Machine may speed up Approval for Spinal Implants

July 28th 2005

Testing devices for spinal implants due to back injuries and arthritis

The Human Spine

The Mechanical Engineering Department at Purdue University is developing specialized hydraulic machines and software to test orthopedic devices for the spine.  The team is using machines to test spinal implants for the lower or lumbar regions of the spine, and cervical, or neck region of the spine. 

Ben Hillberry, professor of mechanical Engineering is leading the research and is working with Purpue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.  Ben and his colleagues are attaching implants made by various manufacturers to cadavers and then the spines are tested using a hydraulic machine.

The machine is designed to mimic everyday activities to determine how the implants “stand up”.  "Creating implants for the spine presents interesting challenges, different from those encountered in implants for other parts of the body, such as the hips and knees," said Eric Nauman, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

The machines test various materials and shapes.  One machine tests implants for the cervical spine.  The goal is to replicate the motions seen in the human neck.  "There is much more movement in the cervical spine than in the lumbar portion, so what we are primarily testing with this machine is how well implants will stand up to wear over a period of about 10 years," said Shreekant Gayakar, a graduate student in mechanical engineering.

Researchers also are using the spine simulator to test implants that replace diseased "facet joints." The facet joints are often damaged by arthritis and usually are treated by injecting them with compounds to relieve the pain. Unlike other arthritic joints, such as hips, knees and shoulders, facet joints have not, until recently, been removed and replaced with artificial implants.


Scientists are hoping to develop replacement devices for the spine.  Currently the common method for treating spinal conditions is fusing several vertebrae together.  Replacements may work better giving patients motion and stability, typically lost with today’s procedures.

The model also can be used to help develop better ways to straighten the spine for people who have scoliosis, or a curvature of the spine.

Hillberry says "In order for implants to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it has to be shown that they can last 10 million cycles, or 10 million movements, which translates into about 10 years of living,"  The goal of the team is to complete 10 million cycles over a four-month period.

Hopefully these testing machines will help speed approval of implants while determining which implants work best.  There are not many machines that can duplicate the motions of the human spine.  “I know of only one on the market," said Jeremie Wade, a graduate student in mechanical engineering who is involved in research using the machine.  Purdue Website:  http://news.uns.purdue.edu/UNS/html4ever/2005/050720.Hillberry.spine.html

By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer

Help with Back Problems

Keywords and misspellings: back injuries arthritus Perdue Purdue scoleosis

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:40 PM