Dislocation is the most common, and severe, spinal cord injury (SCI) mechanism in humans, yet there are few preclinical models. While dislocation in the rat model has been shown to produce unique outcomes, like other closed column models it exhibits higher outcome variability. Refinement of the dislocation model will enhance the testing of neuroprotective strategies, further biomechanical understanding, and guide therapeutic decisions. The overall objective of this study is to improve biomechanical repeatability of a dislocation SCI model in the rat, through the following specific aims: (i) design new injury clamps that pivot and self-align to the vertebrae; (ii) measure intervertebral kinematics during injury using the existing and redesigned clamps; and (iii) compare relative motion at the vertebrae–clamp interface to determine which clamps provide the most rigid connection. Novel clamps that pivot and self-align were developed based on the quantitative rat vertebral anatomy. A dislocation injury was produced in 34 rats at C4/C5 using either the existing or redesigned clamps, and a high-speed X-ray device recorded the kinematics. Relative motion between the caudal clamp and C5 was significantly greater in the existing clamps compared to the redesigned clamps in dorsoventral translation and sagittal rotation. This study demonstrates that relative motions can be of magnitudes that likely affect injury outcomes. We recommend such biomechanical analyses be applied to other SCI models when repeatability is an issue. For this dislocation model, the results show the importance of using clamps that pivot and self-align to the vertebrae.

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