Background context: There has been recent enthusiasm regarding the potential positive effects of statins on bone. Statins vary in their ability to influence bone activity. Simvastatin has been shown in experimental models to stimulate bone acting growth factors and enhance bone formation.
Purpose: The potential efficacy of Simvastatin in enhancing spinal fusion was evaluated in a rabbit posterolateral intertransverse process fusion model.
Study design/setting: Posterior lumbar intertransverse process spinal fusion performed on New Zealand White rabbits. PATIENT/STUDY SAMPLE: 44 New Zealand White rabbits.
Outcome measures: Spinal fusion as determined by manual palpation testing and fine detail radiography. Bone fusion mass volume and density as determined by CT scan imaging.
Methods: Forty-four New Zealand White rabbits underwent posterolateral intertransverse process spine fusion using autogenous iliac crest bone graft. Simvastatin was administered orally in 20 animals and the serum lipid profile quantified in test and control animals. The animals were euthanized 9 weeks following index surgery and the lumbar spine was harvested. Spinal fusion was determined by manual palpation testing and fine detail radiography. The volume and density of the bone fusion mass was quantified by computed tomography.
Results: Drug treatment for 9 weeks caused a reduction in serum lipid biochemical markers when compared with controls. The spinal fusion rate, as judged by manual palpation testing (13.0% control group, 16.6% Simvastatin group) and fine detail radiography, was not significantly different comparing treatment with control animals. Accordant with the assessment of spinal fusion, there was no statistically significant effect on the volume of the fusion mass (1,224.7+/-98.7 mm(3) in the control group and 1,075.9+/-66.3 mm(3) in the Simvastatin group), the density of bone in the lumbar spine or that in the formed fusion mass.
Conclusions: Systemic use of Simvastatin caused a reduction in lipid biochemical parameters in treated animals. Successful spinal fusion as judged by manual palpation testing and fine detail radiography was not significantly different in treated versus untreated animals. The bone volume density of the formed fusion mass was not significantly different in treated versus untreated animals. There did not appear to be a significant advantage or disadvantage to the use of Simvastatin rabbit posterolateral spinal fusion. The potential positive effects of statins on bone require further study.