This study compared the efficacy of characterized 50/50 hydroxyapatite/β-tricalcium phosphate ceramics of 30%, 50%, and 70% porosity and autograft to promote interbody spinal fusion at C2-C3 and C5-C6 in 24 goats: 12 at 3 months and 12 at 6 months.
Radiographs, histology, dual energy x-ray absorptiometry analysis, and biomechanical testing were used to evaluate the ability of the 30%, 50%, and 70% porous 50/50 hydroxyapatite/β-tricalcium phosphate ceramics and autograft to promote cervical interbody fusion.
The conundrum in the use of calcium phosphates for interbody fusion is what porosity is most effective to promote ingrowth yet strong enough to resist compressive stresses found in the spine? It is known that the ability for bone ingrowth increases and the compressive strength decreases as porosity of the ceramic is increase. Dense ceramics remain intact but may be surrounded by fibrous tissue. Porous ceramics have good ingrowth but may fracture.
Radiographs were evaluated for fusion and fracture or collapse of the ceramics or autograft. Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry was used to evaluate the fusion mass. Treated motion segments underwent biomechanical testing to quantify the flexibility of the segment. Undecalcified and decalcified histologic analysis were performed to evaluate the presence or absence of a bony union.
Thirty percent, 50% and 70% porous ceramics had better radiographic fusion scores than the autograft at 3 and 6 months. Incidence of ceramic fracture did not increase with porosity and was equivalent to the collapse of autograft, although ceramics maintained disc height when fracture occurred. No statistically significant differences were found between autograft and the porous ceramics with biomechanical testing and peri-implant bone mineral density values as measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. At 3 months, histologic analysis showed a union rate of 0% for autograft and 30% porous ceramic, 67% for 50% porous ceramic, and 83% for 70% porous ceramic. At 6 months, the union rate was 67% for the 30%, 50%, and 70% porous ceramics and 50% for autograft.
Thirty percent, 50%, and 70% porous ceramics performed equal to or better than autogenous bone after 3 and 6 months. There may be promise for the use of 50/50 hydroxyapatite/β-tricalcium phosphate in spine surgery as the need to harvest autograft from the iliac crest is obviated, and complications and cost associated with the harvest are avoided.
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, The Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
This work was sponsored by a grant from Sofamor-Danek Group.