Numerical models of spinal cord trauma: The effect of cerebrospinal fluid pressure and epidural fat on the results

Konstantin Arhiptsov, Gil Marom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spinal cord injury (SCI) is commonly caused by traumatic mechanical damage. Although numerical models can help predict the mechanics of SCI without putting the subjects in danger, previous studies did not focus on alternations in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pressure and did not account for the presence of epidural fat. This study aims to numerically compare the mechanical behavior of the human spine when subjected to contusion and burst fracture with varying CSF pressure, either normal or elevated pressure that represents intracranial hypertension. An additional aim is to find out how the presence of the fat in the model affects the SCI calculations. CSF and epidural fat were modeled as smoothed-particle hydrodynamics (SPH) and the soft tissues were modeled as hyperelastic. This approach made it possible to account for CSF pressure alteration and its effect on the cord. Validation models resulted in good correlation with previous numerical and experimental studies. The results were able to capture the fluid dynamics of the CSF while demonstrating a considerable change in the stresses of the spinal cord. The comparison of the CSF pressures demonstrated that SCI in patients with elevated pressure and in regions where insufficient epidural fat exists might lead to higher spinal cord stresses. Yet, in regions with enough fat, the fat can absorb energy and counteract the effect of the elevated pressure. These results indicate important aspects that need to be accounted for in future numerical models of SCI while also demonstrating how the injury might be aggravated by preexisting conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2176-2185
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number15
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • burst fracture
  • cerebrospinal fluid
  • epidural fat
  • finite element analysis
  • smoothed particle hydrodynamics
  • spinal cord injury

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology


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