Study design: A prospective randomized controlled human clinical pilot trial.
Objectives: To determine the feasibility of using rhBMP-2/collagen as a substitute for autogenous bone graft inside interbody fusion cages to achieve arthrodesis in humans.
Summary of background data: Preclinical studies have shown rhBMP-2 to be an effective substitute for autogenous bone graft, but there are no studies to date documenting such efficacy for human spine fusion.
Methods: Fourteen patients with single-level lumbar degenerative disc disease refractory to nonoperative management were randomized to receive lumbar interbody arthrodesis with a tapered cylindrical threaded fusion cage filled with rhBMP-2/collagen sponge or autogenous iliac crest bone. Patients were evaluated with radiographs, sagittally reformatted computed tomography scans, and Short Form-36 and Oswestry outcome questionnaires.
Results: All 11 patients who received rhBMP-2 were judged by three independent radiologists to have solid fusions (at 6, 12, and 24 months postimplantation), whereas only 2 of the 3 control patients, who received the standard treatment of autogenous iliac crest bone, were deemed to be fused. The Oswestry Disability Questionnaire scores of the rhBMP-2 group improved sooner (after 3 months) than those of the autograft group, with both groups demonstrating similar improvement at 6 months. Short Form 36 scores continued to improve up to 24 months.
Conclusion: The arthrodesis was found to occur more reliably in patients treated with rhBMP-2-filled fusion cages than in controls treated with autogenous bone graft, although the sample size was limited. There were no adverse events related to the rhBMP-2 treatment. This study is one of the first to show consistent and unequivocal osteoinduction by a recombinant growth factor in-humans.