Tantalum: the next biomaterial in spine surgery?

Author(s) Patel, M.Sunil; McCormick, J.R.; Ghasem, A.; Huntley, S.R.; Gjolaj, J.P.
Journal J Spine Surg
Date Published 2020 Mar

Tantalum is a porous metal, whose elastic modulus, high frictional properties and biocompatibility make it an ideal construct to facilitate adequate bony fusion in spine surgery. Since 2015, the published literature on clinical outcomes of tantalum in spine surgery has more than doubled. A review of the literature was performed on the PubMed (MEDLINE) database on January 27, 2019, for papers pertinent to the use of tantalum metal in spine surgery. Thirteen studies were included in this review. For cervical spine, we found increased fusion rates in autograft alone compared to tantalum standalone (92.8% . 89.0%, P=0.001) and tantalum cages plus autograft (92.8% . 64.8%, P<0.0001). Complication rates in cervical fusion were lower in patients treated with tantalum standalone versus those treated with autograft (7.4% . 13.7%, P<0.0001), and autograft and anterior plate (7.4% . 33%, P=0.001). Autograft patients had higher rates of revision surgery compared to tantalum standalone (12.8% . 2.8%, P<0.0001) and tantalum ring with autograft (12.8% . 7.7%, P<0.001). For lumbar spine, we found autograft had lower fusion rate compared to tantalum standalone (80.0% . 93.4%, P<0.0001). Use of tantalum metal in spine fusion surgery shows promising results in fusion, complication and revision rates, and clinical outcomes compared to autograft. Although, fusion rates in short-term studies evaluating tantalum in the cervical spine are conflicting, long-term series beyond 2 years show excellent results. This early finding may be related difficulties in radiographic evaluation of fusion in the setting of tantalum cage use. Further studies are needed to further delineate the timing of fusion with the implementation of tantalum in the cervical and lumbar spine.

DOI 10.21037/jss.2020.01.01
ISSN 2414-469X
Citation J Spine Surg. 2020;6(1):7286.