Study design: Biopsies were obtained from within radiographically successful human intervertebral body fusion cages to document the histology of remodeling bone graft.
Objectives: The purpose of this study is to describe the tissue within successful human interbody cages with special reference to the viability of bone and the presence or absence of debris particles.
Summary of background data: The use of interbody fusion cages is gaining rapid acceptance, but there is little histologic documentation of the nature of tissue within successful human interbody fusion cages.
Methods: Needle biopsies were obtained of tissue within radiographically successful intervertebral body fusion cages at the time of pedicle screw removal for back pain or fusion of adjacent spinal level in nine spinal levels of eight patients. Preoperative diagnoses of these eight adult patients included disease conditions in the sagittal plane: spondylosis (5), degenerative disc disease (6), failed laminectomy and discectomy (2), radiculopathy (1), and spondylolisthesis (1). In all cases the cages had been packed with autograft (iliac crest 7, local 1) at the time of insertion. Cage implantation was performed with anterior (anterior lumbar interbody fusion 4, corpectomy and plate fixation 1), and posterior (posterior lumbar interbody fusion 4), segmental instrumentation (plate 1, or pedicle screws 8). All cases except one cervical case had posterolateral fusion or bilateral facet fusion. The cages were composed of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (Brantigan cage; DePuy AcroMed, Raynham, MA, n = 5) or titanium mesh (Harms Cage; DePuy AcroMed, Raynham, MA, n = 4). Cages had been in situ from 8 to 72 months (mean 28 months). All nine biopsies from eight patients were obtained from within the center of the cages. Specimens were decalcified, routinely embedded in paraffin, stained with hematoxylin and eosin, and viewed qualitatively with transmitted and polarized light.
Results: All needle biopsies were obtained from within the center of the cages, and no patient developed spinal instability after the biopsy. All nine biopsies showed small fragments of necrotic bone associated with viable bone and restoration of hematopoietic bone marrow. Numerous cement lines demarcated the edges of previous cycles of remodeling. The ratio of necrotic to viable bone varied greatly among cases. Small particles of debris were associated with four of the five carbon-fiber cages and one of the four specimens from titanium cages, but there was no visible bone resorption or inflammation.
Conclusions: Autogenous bone graft was incorporated in these radiographically successful human intervertebral body fusion cages. A few debris particles were observed, but there was no histologic evidence of particle-induced bone resorption or inflammation.