Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and Wood's Metal are fixation media for biomechanical testing; however, the effect of each potting medium on the measured six degree-of-freedom (DOF) mechanical properties of human lumbar intervertebral discs is unknown. The first aim of this study was to compare the measured 6DOF elastic and viscoelastic properties of the disc when embedded in PMMA compared to repotting in Wood's Metal. The second aim was to compare the surface temperature of the disc when potted with PMMA and Wood's Metal. Six human lumbar functional spinal units (FSUs) were first potted in PMMA, and subjected to overnight preload in a saline bath at 37°C followed by five haversine loading cycles at 0.1 Hz in each of 6DOF loading directions (compression, left/right lateral bending, flexion, extension, left/right axial rotation, anterior/posterior, and lateral shear). Each specimen was then repotted in Wood's Metal and subjected to a 2-h re-equilibrating preload followed by repeating the same 6DOF tests. Outcome measures of stiffness and phase angle were calculated from the final loading cycle in each DOF and were expressed as normalized percentages relative to PMMA (100%). Disc surface temperatures (anterior, left/right lateral) were measured during potting. Paired t-tests (with alpha adjusted for multiple DOF) were conducted to compare the differences in each outcome parameter between PMMA and Wood's Metal. No significant differences in stiffness or phase angle were found between PMMA and Wood's Metal. On average, the largest trending differences were found in the shear DOFs for both stiffness (approximately 35% greater for Wood's Metal compared to PMMA) and phase angle (approximately 15% greater for Wood's Metal). A significant difference in disc temperature was found at the anterior surface after potting with Wood's Metal compared to PMMA, which did not exceed 26°C. Wood's Metal is linear elastic, stiffer than PMMA and may reduce measurement artifact of potting medium, particularly in the shear directions. Furthermore, it is easier to remove than PMMA, reuseable, and cost effective.
- Six degree-of-freedom
- Wood's metal