The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the long-term osseointegration and biocompatibility of electron beam melted (EBM) free-form-fabricated (FFF titanium grade 5 (Ti6Al4V) implants. Porous and solid machined cylindrical and disk-shaped implants were prepared by EBM and implanted bilaterally in the femur and subcutaneously in the dorsum of the sheep. After 26 weeks, the implants and surrounding tissue were retrieved. The tissue response was examined qualitatively and quantitatively using histology and light microscopic (LM) morphometry. Selected bone implants specimens were evaluated by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), and micro-computed tomography (mCT). The results showed that both porous and solid implants were osseointegrated and high bone-implant contact was observed throughout the porous implant. In the soft tissue, the porous implants showed thinner fibrous encapsulation while no signs of intolerance were observed for either implant type. Taken together, the present experimental results show that FFF Ti6Al4V with and without porous structures demonstrate excellent long-term soft tissue biocompatibility and a high degree of osseointegration. The present findings extend earlier, short-term experimental observations in bone and suggest that EBM, FFF Ti6Al4V implants possess valuable properties in bone and soft tissue applications.
Keywords: Free-form fabrication; bone; electron beam melting; osseointegration; soft tissue.