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Spinal Cages Continue Trend Toward Metals, Expandable Designs

By Rob Meyer

The trend in newly-launched spinal cages has been a focus on expandables and additively manufactured devices, with a shift away from traditional manufacturing with all-PEEK to those that incorporate titanium, whether in the coating or the body.

Neither manufacturers nor surgeons have reached a consensus on whether or not spinal cages should be 100% PEEK, coated PEEK or titanium. What can’t be disagreed on is the fact the shift away from all-PEEK cages is a direct response by device companies, based on what they’ve been hearing from surgeons, to manufacture implants using materials or coatings with greater strength, porosity and bone-ingrowth capabilities.

With this in mind, and in an effort to get a better understanding of what is happening in this space, we posed questions on spine cage technology to three veteran spine surgeons.

While all three confirmed the shift to incorporate titanium, they also provided insight which we thought you would find interesting—including a forecast for the next five years in cage technology and thoughts on device companies’ priorities.



Michael Steinmetz, M.D., is Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute.

He also serves as the vice president of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, secretary of the Council of State Neurological Societies, an executive committee member of the AANS/CNS Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves and is involved with the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the North American Spine Society and the Society for Neurosciences.

What are your thoughts on cages that are expandable, additively manufactured or those that incorporate titanium?

Dr. Steinmetz: Cage design has been a game changer in spine surgery. Surgical approaches have been somewhat stagnant, but cage design has made surgery easier and potentially safer. Cages require an appropriate “fit” in the interbody space to effectively fuse. If too loose, fusion may not occur; if too large, endplates may fracture or be “plowed” during insertion, resulting in subsidence and construct failure. More importantly, cage placement in the posterior transforaminal route places both the traversing and existing nerve roots at risk of damage during insertion. This may result in the surgeon choosing too small of a cage to lessen the chance of nerve injury, but increase the risk of unsuccessful fusion. 

Expandable cage design permits a smaller cage to be inserted in the disc space, hence easing the chance of nerve and endplate injury, but after expansion an appropriate fit to the endplates. 

Read more on spine cage technology trends in BONEZONE®.

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