Evaluation of Topology Optimization Using 3D Printing for Bioresorbable Fusion Cages: A Biomechanical Study in a Porcine Model

Nathan C. Ho, Scott J. Hollister, Virat Agrawal, Colleen L. Flanagan, Chloe Lee, Matthew B. Wheeler, Huan Wang, Edward Ebramzadeh, Sophia N. Sangiorgio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Design. Preclinical biomechanical study of topology optimization versus standard ring design for bioresorbable poly-ϵ-caprolactone (PCL) cervical spine fusion cages delivering bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) using a porcine model. Objective. The aim was to evaluate range of motion (ROM) and bone fusion, as a function of topology optimization and BMP-2 delivery method. Summary of Background Data. 3D printing technology enables fabrication of topology-optimized cages using bioresorbable materials, offering several advantages including customization, and lower stiffness. Delivery of BMP-2 using topology optimization may enhance the quality of fusion. Methods. Twenty-two 6-month-old pigs underwent anterior cervical discectomy fusion at one level using 3D printed PCL cages. Experimental groups (N=6 each) included: Group 1: ring design with surface adsorbed BMP-2, Group 2: topology-optimized rectangular design with surface adsorbed BMP-2, and Group 3: ring design with BMP-2 delivery via collagen sponge. Additional specimens, two of each design, were implanted without BMP-2, as controls. Complete cervical segments were harvested six months postoperatively. Nanocomputed tomography was performed to assess complete bony bridging. Pure moment biomechanical testing was conducted in all three planes, separately. Continuous 3D motions were recorded and analyzed. Results. Three subjects suffered early surgical complications and were not evaluated. Overall, ROM for experimental specimens, regardless of design or BMP-2 delivery method, was comparable, with no clinically significant differences among groups. Among experimental specimens at the level of the fusion, ROM was <1.0° in flexion and extension, indicative of fusion, based on clinically applied criteria for fusion of <2 to 4°. Despite the measured biomechanical stability, using computed tomography evaluation, complete bony bridging was observed in 40% of the specimens in Group 1, 50% of Group 2, 100% of Group 3, and none of the control specimens. Conclusion. A topology-optimized PCL cage with BMP-2 is capable of resulting in an intervertebral fusion, similar to a conventional ring-based design of the same bioresorbable material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E46-E53
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • 3D printing
  • anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
  • bioresorbable
  • cervical cage
  • polycaprolactone
  • swine model
  • topology optimized

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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