Surgery for disc herniations can be complicated by two major problems: painful degeneration of the spinal segment and re-herniation. Therefore, we examined an absorbable poly-glycolic acid (PGA) biomaterial, which was lyophilized with hyaluronic acid (HA), for its utility to (a) re-establish spinal stability and to (b) seal annulus fibrosus defects. The biomechanical properties range of motion (ROM), neutral zone (NZ) and a potential annulus sealing capacity were investigated.
Seven bovine, lumbar spinal units were tested in vitro for ROM and NZ in three consecutive stages: (a) intact, (b) following nucleotomy and (c) after insertion of a PGA/HA nucleus-implant. For biomechanical testing, spinal units were mounted on a loading-simulator for spines. In three cycles, axial loading was applied in an excentric mode with 0.5 Nm steps until an applied moment of ± 7.5 Nm was achieved in flexion/extension. ROM and NZ were assessed. These tests were performed without and with annulus sealing by sewing a PGA/HA annulus-implant into the annulus defect.
Spinal stability was significantly impaired after nucleotomy (p < 0.001). Intradiscal implantation of a PGA-HA nucleus-implant, however, restored spinal stability (p < 0.003). There was no statistical difference between the stability provided by the nucleus-implant and the intact stage regarding flexion/extension movements (p = 0.209). During the testing sequences, herniation of biomaterial through the annulus defect into the spinal canal regularly occurred, resulting in compression of neural elements. Sewing a PGA/HA annulus-implant into the annulus defect, however, effectively prevented herniation.
PGA/HA biomaterial seems to be well suited for cell-free and cell-based regenerative treatment strategies in spinal surgery. Its abilities to restore spinal stability and potentially close annulus defects open up new vistas for regenerative approaches to treat intervertebral disc degeneration and for preventing implant herniation.