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A One-Dimensional Model of the Spinal Cerebrospinal-Fluid Compartment

journal contribution
posted on 28.10.2019, 15:10 by Srdjan Cirovic, Minsuok KimMinsuok Kim
Modeling of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) system in the spine is strongly motivated by the need to understand the origins of pathological conditions such as the emergence and growth of fluid-filled cysts in the spinal cord. In this study, a one-dimensional (1D) approximation for the flow in elastic conduits was used to formulate a model of the spinal CSF compartment. The modeling was based around a coaxial geometry in which the inner elastic cylinder represented the spinal cord, middle elastic tube represented the dura, and the outermost tube represented the vertebral column. The fluid-filled annuli between the cord and dura, and the dura and vertebral column, represented the subarachnoid and epidural spaces, respectively. The system of governing equations was constructed by applying a 1D form of mass and momentum conservation to all segments of the model. The developed 1D model was used to simulate CSF pulse excited by pressure disturbances in the subarachnoid and epidural spaces. The results were compared to those obtained from an equivalent two-dimensional finite element (FE) model which was implemented using a commercial software package. The analysis of linearized governing equations revealed the existence of three types of waves, of which the two slower waves can be clearly related to the wave modes identified in previous similar studies. The third, much faster, wave emanates directly from the vertebral column and has little effect on the deformation of the spinal cord. The results obtained from the 1D model and its FE counterpart were found to be in good general agreement even when sharp spatial gradients of the spinal cord stiffness were included; both models predicted large radial displacements of the cord at the location of an initial cyst. This study suggests that 1D modeling, which is computationally inexpensive and amenable to coupling with the models of the cranial CSF system, should be a useful approach for the analysis of some aspects of the CSF dynamics in the spine. The simulation of the CSF pulse excited by a pressure disturbance in the epidural space, points to the possibility that regions of the spinal cord with abnormally low stiffness may be prone to experiencing large strains due to coughing and sneezing.


UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant EP/H000461/1



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering

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Journal of Biomechanical Engineering






ASME International


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Dr Minsuok Kim Deposit date: 28 October 2019

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