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Experimental production of forward dislocation in the human cervical spine

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Entire human cadaveric cervical spines with the basiocciput were subjected to load in a compression apparatus to simulate the clinical situation of forward dislocation. The movements were recorded by lateral cineradiography. Vertical load was measured by a potentiometric transmitter synchronised with each frame of the cineradiograph. The lower part of the spine was flexed and fixed, and the upper extended and free to move forward. Vertical compression then produced bilateral dislocation of the facets without fracture. If lateral tilt or axial rotation occurred as well, a unilateral dislocation was produced. The maximum vertical load was only 145 kilograms, and coincided with the rupture of the posterior ligament and capsule and the stripping of the anterior longitudinal ligament, but this occurred before dislocation. The low vertical load indicates a peculiar vulnerabiity of the cervical spine in this position and correlates well with the minor trauma often seen in association with forward dislocation.

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