Finite element (FE) modelling is a popular numerical method used to study the biomechanics of the spine. Existing FE models have been used to investigate the effects of tissue degeneration, fixation implants and vertebral fractures. However, a wide range of geometric and material properties have been used to represent the soft tissues of the spne, and there is no consensus on the best approach for soft tissue modelling, or the relative importance of various soft tissues in governing the biomechanics of the motion segments. This study investigates the relative effect of soft tissue properties on the overall response of a human spinal motion segment using an osseo-ligamentous FE model of the Visible Man L3-L4 intervertebral joint. The results from this study demonstrate that some soft tissue structures are more critical than others in determining the characteristic behaviour of the spine. Correct representation of the mechanical properties of both the capsular ligament and anular fibres is most important in generating realistic FE models of the lumbar spine to predict motion segment biomechanics
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