Surgeon turns inventor: Dr. Christopher Blanchard completes 1st spinal fusion with device he designed

Written by Alan Condon | June 25, 2019 | Print  |

Christopher Blanchard, DO, of Atlanta-based Resurgens Orthopaedics completed the first spinal fusion surgery with Tiger Shark C, a device he helped develop.

Dr. Blanchard collaborated with ChoiceSpine to develop Tiger Shark C — a titanium 3D-manufactured cervical interbody device — that allows for fusion through the cage during cervical spinal fusions.

"The idea came about as we were just trying to develop new technology that allows us to have a more consistent fusion rate," said Dr. Blanchard. 

"What we were really trying to do is use some of the technology from other areas of orthopedics where we see bone ingrowth with porous — like a plasma titanium coating on hip and knee implants — and really take that same technology and apply it to what we're using for spinal fusions to get a better bone ingrowth," said Dr. Blanchard.

"We've some other studies that show, since [PEEK] is a smooth surface, that it's kind of hydrophobic in nature and they tend not to get any bone ingrowth," he added.

Tiger Shark C features BioBond technology, a porous interbody design developed for continuous porosity with an osteoconductive, hydrophilic surface. 

A cervical spinal fusion procedure with Tiger Shark C involves the surgeon removing the disc causing pain in between the two vertebral bodies and then fusing the two segments together once the pressure is alleviated from the spinal cord and the nerve.

The interbody device or cage is placed in between the two bones with a plate attached to the front. This holds the device in place and enables the two segments to fuse together or the bone to shift across, essentially forming one bone. 

Dr. Blanchard insists there was no added pressure during the device's debut procedure, even considering that the patient was an FBI special agent. He successfully completed a C6-7 anterior cervical discectomy and fusion and the FBI agent is recovering well. 

"The [next step] for us is to try and figure out does this truly give us a clinical advantage in our non-union rates," said Dr. Blanchard. "New technology is great but we want to have a true advantage, so I'd love to see some studies in the future comparing the fusion rate of this product versus a traditional allograft or PEEK implant."

Dr. Blanchard predicts biomaterials to be the next big innovation in spine.

"Just recently we've started to use more titanium-based implants so finding an implant that would give us the ability to fuse through that implant would be a really big deal in allowing us more surface area to obtain a fusion," said Dr. Blanchard. "I think we're going to see a big development in the future, looking at different biomaterials to allow that to happen."

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