Development of ultrasound to measure deformation of functional spinal units in cervical spine
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Neck pain is a pervasive problem in the general population, especially in those working in vibrating environments, e.g. military troops and truck drivers. Previous studies showed neck pain was strongly associated with the degeneration of intervertebral disc, which is commonly caused by repetitive loading in the work place. Currently, there is no existing method to measure the in-vivo displacement and loading condition of cervical spine on the site. Therefore, there is little knowledge about the alternation of cervical spine functionality and biomechanics in dynamic environments. In this thesis, a portable ultrasound system was explored as a tool to measure the vertebral motion and functional spinal unit deformation. It is hypothesized that the time sequences of ultrasound imaging signals can be used to characterize the deformation of cervical spine functional spinal units in response to applied displacements and loading. Specifically, a multi-frame tracking algorithm is developed to measure the dynamic movement of vertebrae, which is validated in ex-vivo models. The planar kinematics of the functional spinal units is derived from a dual ultrasound system, which applies two ultrasound systems to image C-spine anteriorly and posteriorly. The kinematics is reconstructed from the results of the multi-frame movement tracking algorithm and a method to co-register ultrasound vertebrae images to MRI scan. Using the dual ultrasound, it is shown that the dynamic deformation of functional spinal unit is affected by the biomechanics properties of intervertebral disc ex-vivo and different applied loading in activities in-vivo. It is concluded that ultrasound is capable of measuring functional spinal units motion, which allows rapid in-vivo evaluation of C-spine in dynamic environments where X-Ray, CT or MRI cannot be used.