The use of bone morphogenetic protein-2 (rhBMP-2) in spinal fusion has increased dramatically since an FDA approval for its use in anterior lumbar fusion with the LT cage. There are several reports of its use in transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion, posterolateral fusion, and anterior cervical fusion. Reports on adverse effects of rhBMP-2 when used in spinal fusion are scarce in literature. An Institutional Review Board approved retrospective study was conducted in patients undergoing anterior spinal fusion and instrumentation following diskectomy at a single center. Forty-six consecutive patients were included. Twenty-two patients treated with rhBMP-2 and PEEK cages were compared to 24 in whom allograft spacers and demineralized bone matrix was used. Patients filled out Cervical Oswestry Scores, VAS for arm pain, neck pain, and had radiographs preoperatively as well at every follow up visit. Radiographic examination following surgery revealed end plate resorption in all patients in whom rhBMP-2 was used. This was followed by a period of new bone formation commencing at 6 weeks. In contrast, allograft patients showed a progressive blurring of end plate-allograft junction. Dysphagia was a common complication and it was significantly more frequent and more severe in patients in whom rhBMP-2 was used. Post operative swelling anterior to the vertebral body on lateral cervical spine X-ray was significantly larger in the rhBMP-2 group when measured from 1 to 6 weeks after which it was similar. These effects are possibly due to an early inflammatory response to rhBMP-2 and were observed to be dose related. With the parameters we used, there was no significant difference in the clinical outcome of patients in the two groups at 2 years. The cost of implants in patients treated with rhBMP-2 and PEEK spacers was more than three times the cost of allograft spacers and demineralized bone matrix in 1, 2, and 3-level cases. Despite providing consistently good fusion rates, we have abandoned using rhBMP-2 and PEEK cages for anterior cervical fusion, due to the side effects, high cost, and the availability of a suitable alternative.
Keywords: Bone morphogenetic protein-2, Cage, Anterior cervical fusion, Allograft bone