BACKGROUND - The challenging biological and mechanical environment of posterolateral fusion (PLF) requires a carrier that spans the transverse processes and resists the compressive forces of the posterior musculature. The less traumatic posterolateral approach enabled by minimally invasive surgical techniques has prompted investigations into alternative rhBMP-2 carriers that are injectable, settable, and compression-resistant. In this pilot study, we investigated injectable low-viscosity (LV) polymer/composite bone grafts as compression-resistant carriers for rhBMP-2 in a single-level rabbit PLF model.
METHODS - LV grafts were augmented with ceramic microparticles: (1) hydrolytically degradable bioactive glass (BG), or (2) cell-degradable 85% β-tricalcium phosphate/15% hydroxyapatite (CM). Material properties, such as pore size, viscosity, working time, and bulk modulus upon curing, were measured for each LV polymer/ceramic material. An in vivo model of posterolateral fusion in a rabbit was used to assess the grafts' capability to encourage spinal fusion.
RESULTS - These materials maintained a working time between 9.6 and 10.3 min, with a final bulk modulus between 1.2 and 3.1 MPa. The LV polymer/composite bone grafts released 55% of their rhBMP-2 over a 14-day period. As assessed by manual palpation in vivo, fusion was achieved in all (n = 3) animals treated with LV/BG or LV/CM carriers incorporating 430 μg rhBMP-2/ml. Images of μCT and histological sections revealed evidence of bone fusion near the transverse processes.
CONCLUSION - This study highlights the potential of LV grafts as injectable and compression-resistant rhBMP-2 carriers for posterolateral spinal fusion.