Initial promise of a stand-alone interbody fusion cage to treat chronic back pain and restore disc height has not been realized. In some instances, a posterior spinal fixation has been used to enhance stability and increase fusion rate. In this manuscript, a new stand-alone cage is compared with conventional fixation methods based on the finite element analysis, with a focus on investigating cage-bone interface mechanics and stress distribution on the adjacent tissues.
Three trapezoid 8° interbody fusion cage models (dual paralleled cages, a single large cage, or a two-part cage consisting of a trapezoid box and threaded cylinder) were created with or without pedicle screws fixation to investigate the relative importance of the screws on the spinal segmental response. The contact stress on the facet joint, slip displacement of the cage on the endplate, and rotational angle of the upper vertebra were measured under different loading conditions.
Simulation results demonstrated less facet stress and slip displacement with the maximal contact on the cage-bone interface. A stand-alone two-part cage had good slip behavior under compression, flexion, extension, lateral bending and torsion, as compared with the other two interbody cages, even with the additional posterior fixation. However, the two-part cage had the lowest rotational angles under flexion and torsion, but had no differences under extension and lateral bending.
The biomechanical benefit of a stand-alone two-part fusion cage can be justified. This device provided the stability required for interbody fusion, which supports clinical trials of the cage as an alternative to circumferential fixations.