Getting PEEK to Stick to Bone: The Development of Porous PEEK for Interbody Fusion Devices
Interbody fusion cages are routinely implanted during spinal fusion procedures to facilitate arthrodesis of a degenerated or unstable vertebral segment. Current cages are most commonly made from polyether-ether-ketone (PEEK) due to its favorable mechanical properties and imaging characteristics. However, the smooth surface of current PEEK cages may limit implant osseointegration and may inhibit successful fusion. We present the development and clinical application of the first commercially available porous PEEK fusion cage (COHERE) ® that aims to enhance PEEK osseointegration and spinal fusion outcomes. The porous PEEK structure is extruded directly from the underlying solid and mimics the structural and mechanical properties of trabecular bone to support bone ingrowth and implant fixation. Biomechanical testing of the COHERE device has demonstrated greater expulsion resistance versus smooth PEEK cages with ridges and greater adhesion strength of porous PEEK versus plasma-sprayed titanium coated PEEK surfaces. In vitro experiments have shown favorable cell attachment to porous PEEK and greater proliferation and mineralization of cell cultures grown on porous PEEK versus smooth PEEK and smooth titanium surfaces, suggesting that the porous structure enhances bone formation at the cellular level. At the implant level, preclinical animal studies have found comparable bone ingrowth into porous PEEK as those previously reported for porous titanium, leading to twice the fixation strength of smooth PEEK implants. Finally, two clinical case studies are presented demonstrating the effectiveness of the COHERE device in cervical spinal fusion.