Development and evaluation of a numerical spine model comprising intra-abdominal pressure for use in assessing physiological changes on abdominal compliance and spinal stability

  • Ibrahim El Bojairami
    Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab, Department of Mechanical Engineering, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

    Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Department of Surgery, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
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  • Natasha Jacobson
    Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab, Department of Mechanical Engineering, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

    Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Department of Surgery, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
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  • Mark Driscoll
    Corresponding author.
    Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab, Department of Mechanical Engineering, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

    Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Department of Surgery, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
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      • Compliance showed to be inversely proportional to elasticity, thickness, and radius.
      • Dangerously low compliance levels result from thickening abdominal fat layers.
      • Android obesity associates with poor elasticity and high wall thickness.
      • Gynoid obesity associates with poor elasticity and a more elliptical abdominal perimeter.
      • Active augmentation of abdominal pressure increases static spinal stability.



      Abdominal compliance is the “measure of ease of abdominal expansion” and determines whether a patient can withstand high intra-abdominal pressures. Thus, high compliance indicates that the abdomen can expand relatively freely, while low compliance restricts abdominal expansion. The global objective of the present work is to evaluate the effect of physiological changes on abdominal compliance using a comprehensive spine finite element model inclusive of intra-abdominal pressure.


      The effect of changing Young's modulus, abdominal wall thickness, and abdominal radii on abdominal compliance were evaluated. Intra-abdominal pressure and thoracolumbar fascia forces were also evaluated to assess abdominal physiological changes effects on overall static spinal stability.


      Results showed that as wall thickness increased, compliance decreased. Similar findings were made with an increase in abdominal radius and Young's modulus. Furthermore, the active reduction in compliance, caused by increased elasticity and abdominal radius, resulted in an increase in spinal supportive forces originating from the thoracolumbar fascia and intra-abdominal pressurization, along with an increase in spine displacement from its original stable position. There was no clear stability trend for the case of changing abdominal wall thickness as fluctuations were present.


      Investigated mechanics and data trends suggested that dangerously low compliance levels might result from poor abdominal elasticity and thickening fat layers. This led to a direct discussion and recommendations for obesity conditions and laparoscopy applications. Lastly, static spinal stability showed to improve through increasing active abdominal compliance by means of actively engaging abdominal pressure, hence augmenting abdominal active elasticity.

      Graphical abstract


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