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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

MECH5221M Spinal Biomechanics and Instrumentation (Distance Learning)

15 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Prof R M Hall

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is not approved as an Elective


On completion of this module, students should be able to:

a) demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the functional and biomechanical aspect of the spine;
b) critically evaluate the current literature in this area and present the finding through a variety of media;
c) plan, execute and report on a biomechanical aspect of the spine and its functioning and communicate this effectively to different stakeholders through a variety of media.

Learning outcomes
At the end of this module, students will have learnt how to:
1. apply engineering reasoning and problem solving;
2. perform systems thinking;
3. prepare and employ critical analysis including acquisition of the relevant information;
4. communicate medical engineering theory and practice using a variety of tools;
5. be able to deliver specifications and profile for a given medical engineering situation.
Upon successful completion of this module the following UK-SPEC learning outcome descriptors are satisfied:

A comprehensive understanding of the relevant scientific principles of the specialisation (SM1m, SM7M)
Knowledge and understanding of mathematical and statistical methods necessary to underpin education in medical engineering and to enable them to apply a range of mathematical and statistical methods, tools and notations proficiently and critically in the analysis and solution of engineering problems (SM2m)
Understanding of concepts relevant to the discipline, some from outside engineering, and the ability to evaluate them critically and to apply them effectively, including in engineering projects (SM6m, SM9M)
Understanding of engineering principles and the ability to apply them to undertake critical analysis of key engineering processes (EA1m)
Ability to identify, classify and describe the performance of systems and components through the use of analytical methods and modelling techniques (EA2)
Ability both to apply appropriate engineering analysis methods for solving complex problems in engineering and to assess their limitations (EA3m, EA6M)
Understanding of, and the ability to apply, an integrated or systems approach to solving complex medical engineering problems (EA4m)
Awareness of the need for a high level of professional and ethical conduct in engineering (EL1m, EL8M)
Awareness of relevant regulatory requirements governing engineering activities in the context of the particular specialisation (EL5m, EL12M)
Understanding of contexts in which medical engineering knowledge can be applied (eg operations and management, application and development of technology, etc) (P1)
Understanding of the use of technical literature and other information sources (P4)
Understanding of appropriate codes of practice and industry standards (P6)
A thorough understanding of current practice in medical engineering and its limitations, and some appreciation of likely new developments (P9m)
Apply their skills in problem solving, communication, information retrieval, working with others, and the effective use of general IT facilities (G1)
Plan self-learning and improve performance, as the foundation for lifelong learning/CPD (G2)
Monitor and adjust a personal programme of work on an on-going basis (G3m)

Skills outcomes
- Web based interaction. critical and literature review skills
- Poster communication skills, report and essay writing
- Understanding of the necessary underpinning anatomical and biomechanical details that are important for the development and delivery of spinal instrumentation and interventions.


The course will comprise five subtopics:

- Advanced spinal anatomy
- Advanced spinal mechanics including the use of different modelling strategies to elucidate the workings of the spine and its application to the development of spinal instrumentation
- Biomechanics of the intervertebral discs and their degeneration and replacement, spinal stenosis
- New techniques in spinal surgery as exemplified by vertebroplasty and prosthetic discs
- Advanced spinal trauma

The course is split into 5 basic subtopics:

1. Advanced spinal anatomy. This will focus particularly on the IV disc as well as the musculature that stabilises and provides motion to the spine.
2. Advanced spinal mechanics including the use of different modelling strategies to elucidate the workings of the spine and its application to the development of spinal instrumentation.
3. Biomechanics of the intervertebral discs and their degeneration and replacement, spinal stenosis. This will include the effects of degeneration in terms of neural function both of the spinal cord and nerve roots as well as the disc herniation. These phenomena are exemplified by low strain rate events.
4. New techniques in spinal surgery as exemplified by vertebroplasty and disc replacement.
5. Advanced spinal trauma. This will build on the work undertaken in the School of Engineering with other clinical and international collaborators on Burst Fractures using both experimental and computational methods.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent Learning132.0032.00
Private study hours118.00
Total Contact hours32.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

- Activities within supplementary materials in support of the core learning.
- Distance learning centred on web based materials. Supplementary materials will be supplied using the WWW.
- Additional support mechanisms will include Email support for more personalised assistance as well as telephone support.
- The monitoring of progress, outside summative assessment, will be undertaken using SAQs and online assessments (Additional activities such as those related to the SAQs will require 30 hours of activity).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

As with online modules progress is assessed through a number of mechanisms and on a continual basis:
- Firstly, access is monitored through web page logging. In each of the module units the students are requested to undertake a number of self-assessment exercises that are monitored through the web site. Email and telephone follow-up to queries.
- Further, the formal assignments are evenly distributed throughout the modules in a temporal manner.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
AssignmentLiterature review - 2 parts literature search and literature review40.00
EssayExecutive Summary30.00
Poster PresentationPoster30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Resit coursework offered.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 28/04/2023 14:55:00


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