Eight spine surgeons discuss whether the use of 3D-printed implants in spine surgery will increase.
Ask Spine Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to spine surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting spine care. We invite all spine surgeon and specialist responses.
Question: What are your thoughts on the trajectory of 3D-printed implants in spine surgery? Will its use grow?
Mark M. Mikhael, MD. Spine Surgeon at NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Orthopaedic Institute and Illinois Bone & Joint Institute (Chicago & Glenview, Ill.): I am most excited to see how 3D printing will grow with regard to the different materials used, specifically porous metal and biologically favorable implants so they can grow onto bone, similar to what we see in total joint replacement. When it comes to custom implants for spine surgery, they are mainly used as spacers or cages to hold for fusions. The technology is promising but not necessary for all spinal pathologies; most typical patients fall into pre-set implant sizes and don’t need custom printed implants.
As a potential advantage going forward, premade 3D-printed devices can be most useful to determine an appropriate implant size, so the surgical team can prepare the correct implant for surgery, instead of bringing multiple styles and trials into the OR. In this way, 3D-printed implants do provide a cost-savings in our value-based healthcare system and might continue to do so as this technology evolves. Finally, 3D-printed spine models can be useful in deformity surgery when based off preoperative CT scans. This can allow surgeons to better prepare for osteotomies and implant placement prior to the procedures.
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