Development and first clinical use of a novel anatomical and biomechanical testing platform for scoliosis

Michael A. Bohl, Sarah McBryan, Peter Nakaji, Steve W. Chang, Jay D. Turner, U. Kumar Kakarla


Background: Previous studies have demonstrated that, by using various three-dimensional (3D) printing technologies, synthetic spine models can be manufactured to mimic a human spine in its gross and radiographic anatomy and the biomechanical performance of bony and ligamentous tissue. These manufacturing processes have not, however, been used in combination to create a long-segment, biomimetic model of a patient with scoliosis. The purpose of this study was to describe the development of a biomimetic scoliosis model and early clinical experience using this model as a surgical planning and education platform.
Methods: Synthetic spine models were printed to mimic the anatomy and biomechanical performance of 2 adult patients with scoliosis. Preoperatively, the models were surgically corrected by the attending surgeon of each patient. Patients then underwent surgical correction of their spinal deformities. Correction of the models was compared to the surgical correction in the patients.
Results: Patient 1 had a preoperative coronal Cobb angle of 40° from L1 to S1, as did the patient’s synthetic spine model. The patient’s spine model was corrected to 17.6°, and the patient achieved a correction of 17.3°. Patient 2 had a preoperative mid-thoracic Cobb angle of 88° and an upper thoracic Cobb angle of 43°. Preoperatively, the patient’s spine model was corrected to 19.5° and 9.2° for the mid-thoracic and upper thoracic curves, respectively. Immediately after surgery, the patient’s mid-thoracic and upper thoracic Cobb angles measured 18.7° and 9.5°, respectively. In both cases, the use of the spine models preoperatively changed the attending surgeon’s operative plan.
Conclusions: A novel synthetic spine model for corrective scoliosis procedures is presented, along with early clinical experience using this model as a surgical planning platform. This model has tremendous potential not only as a surgical planning platform but also as an adjunct to patient consent, surgical education, and biomechanical research.