Study design: Tantalum- and titanium-based lumbar interbody fusion devices were implanted into two fresh human cadavers, and magnetic resonance and computed tomographic imaging were performed to evaluate adjacent spinal structures and the amount of metallic artifact.
Objective: The objective of this study was to prospectively compare the preliminary results of magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography scanning image quality after the implantation of both titanium and tantalum spinal implants.
Summary of background data: The availability of tantalum and titanium spinal implants brings theoretical magnetic resonance imaging compatibility along with several other desirable characteristics. The magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomographic imaging of tantalum spinal instrumentation has never been studied previously or compared with titanium instrumentation.
Methods: Titanium and tantalum spinal implants produced for anterior spinal fusion were each placed at two levels in the lumbar spine of two fresh cadaver specimens. Sequential spin echo T1-weighted and T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging studies and computed tomographic scans were obtained. The resulting images were then graded to describe and compare the behavior of tantalum metal in magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomographic studies.
Results: Good T1 and T2 images were obtained that allowed visualization of the neural structures with minimal artifact. The optimal T1 images for tantalum metal were similar in quality to the optimal T1 parameters for titanium metal. T2 images for both tantalum and titanium metal were obtained with similar results for both metals. Gradient echo magnetic resonance imaging scans of both were poorly imaged with a large amount of artifact. Computed tomographic studies of tantalum implants produced a large amount of metal artifact when compared with computed tomographic studies of titanium implants.
Conclusions: High-quality magnetic resonance imaging studies can be obtained after the implantation of both titanium and tantalum spinal instrumentation. Both of the metals produce similar images on magnetic resonance imaging studies with comparable amounts of metallic artifact. High-quality computed tomographic scans of titanium implants can be obtained with minimal distortion secondary to artifact. However, computed tomographic scanning is not the imaging modality of choice for the tantalum spinal implants because of the large amounts of artifact.