Alan Breen and Judith Meakin

Alan Breen and Judith Meakin

“Estimation of in vivo loading during motion using fluoroscopic and MRI informed finite models”

Following a call for funding applications in 2014, funding was provided  for a study entitled, “Estimation of in vivo inter-vertebral loading during motion using fluoroscopic and MRI informed finite element models”. The study, conducted by UK researchers Alan Breen (Centre for Biomechanics Research, AECC University College) and Judith Meakin (Biophysics Group, University of Exeter), investigated the imaging of vertebral segments under various load conditions, in people with, and without, low back pain.

Alan and Judith had developed a unique method for measuring intervertebral movement in low back pain patients using quantitative fluoroscopy (QF). They wanted to investigate what happened when additional loading stresses were applied.

Following a successful CRC funding application in 2014, the researchers were able to combine information gathered from Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Quantitative Fluoroscopy to calculate and describe the load sharing between the vertebrae from the lumbar spine (L2-S1) during motion.

The project was successful and the results were presented at the 2nd International Workshop on Spine Loading and Deformation in Berlin in May 2017, and were subsequently published in the Journal of Biomechanics [1].

The study led on to further projects on spinal loading using AECC University College’s open, upright MRI scanner and QF systems.  One of these was for the European Space Agency to test a “microgravity countermeasure skinsuit” for reducing disc swelling in astronauts during space flight and another was to see if early disc degeneration causes instability in the lumbar spine [2].

Yet another investigated how the amount of motion that a vertebral level accepts during bending changes during the motion [3].  These studies in turn gave rise to further conference presentations and journal publications and the researchers are very grateful to the Chiropractic Research Council for giving this research its start.  As a result, QF at the AECC University College is now regarded as the international gold standard for measuring spinal motion.

This research is essential to aid understanding and provide visual imaging of the biomechanical changes that occur within the lumbar spine during loading, in asymptomatic people, and those suffering with low back pain.

Conference presentations:

Estimation of in vivo inter-vertebral loading during motion using fluoroscopic and magnetic resonance image informed finite element models J Meakin, S Zanjipour, Ax Breen, A Breen. 2nd International. Workshop on Spine Loading and Deformation, Berlin, May 2017

The effect of 4-hour partial axial reloading via the Mk VI SkinSuit upon recumbent lumbar geometry and kinematics after 8-hour hyper-buoyancy flotation.  Carvil P, Russomano T, Jones M, Horne D, Ayer R, Osborne N, Breen A, Breen A, Scott J, Green D. 2nd Human Physiology Workshop, DLR, Cologne, Germany, December 2017

Apportionment of lumbar intervertebral motion in a standardised flexion and return protocol using fluoroscopy: basic data to improve current spine models. Breen Ax, De Carvalho D, Wong A, Kawchuk G, Funabashi A, Swain M, Breen A. 8th World Congress of Biomechanics, Dublin, Ireland, July 2018.

Lumbar intervertebral motion sharing during spine flexion and return to neutral: improving reference data for more accurate spine models. Breen Ax, De Carvalho D, Funabashi M, Kawchuck G, Pagé I, Swain M, Wong A, Breen A. World Federation of Chiropractic (EPIC).  Berlin, March 2019.

Research papers:

1. Zanjani-Pour S, Meakin, J,R,,  Breen, Ax., Breen A. (2018) Estimation of in vivo inter-vertebral loading during motion using fluoroscopic and magnetic resonance image informed finite element models. Journal of Biomechanics 70:134-139.

2. Breen A.C. Mellor F.M., Morris A., Breen Ax. (2020) An in-vivo study exploring correlations between early-to-moderate disc degeneration and flexion mobility in the lumbar spine. European Spine Journal. doi:

3. Breen Ax.C. Breen A.C. (2020) Dynamic interactions between lumbar intervertebral motion segments during forward bending and return. Journal of Biomechanics.    


January 14, 2021