Introduction: Nonautologous interbody fusion materials are utilised in increasing numbers after anterior cervical disc surgery to overcome the problem of donor site morbidity of autologous bone grafts. This study investigates the performance of two nonautologous materials, the bone cement Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and titanium cages. This prospective randomised trial, with assessment of the results by an independent observer, evaluates whether a Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) spacer or a titanium cage provides a better fusion rate around the implant and a better clinical outcome.
Patients/material and methods: Between 2000 and 2002, 115 patients with monoradicular cervical nerve root compression syndrome caused by soft cervical disc herniation were eligible for this study. Myelopathy, excessive osteophyte formation, and adjacent level degeneration were exclusion criteria. A block-restricted randomisation was applied. The 2-year clinical outcome served as the primary endpoint of the study. Clinical outcome was assessed according to the Odom scale by an independent observer at the follow-up examination. Preoperative, postoperative, and follow-up radiographs were taken.
Results: The study was completed by 107 patients (53 with PMMA and 54 with titanium cage). No significant difference between the two groups could be established with respect to the clinical outcome. In each group, 26 patients scored excellent. Good results were found in 19 PMMA patients and 16 titanium cage patients; satisfactory results were found in 8 PMMA patients and 9 titanium cage patients; bad results were found in 3 titanium cage patients. In 47 titanium cage cases (87%), fusion occurred radiologically as bony bridging around the implant. The fusion rate was significantly lower (p=0.011) in the PMMA group, with 35 cases (66%) united at follow-up.
Conclusion: The radiological result of the titanium cage is superior to that of PMMA with respect to the fusion rate. Although the titanium cage achieves a better fusion rate, there is no difference between titanium cages and PMMA with respect to the clinical outcome.