'A wealth of new choices': Dr. Kornelis Poelstra on 3D-printing in spine surgery

Carly Behm -   Print  |

New developments in 3D-printed implants hold great potential in spine surgery, but custom implants may not take a full grasp on the industry yet, according to Kornelis Poelstra, MD, PhD, a spine surgeon at Las Vegas-based Allegiant Spine Institute.

Here are Dr. Poelstra's predictions:

Note: This response was lightly edited for style.

Question: How do you see 3D-printing evolving in spine surgery in the next three years?

Dr. Kornelis Poelstra: 3D printing has provided us with a wealth of new implant choices, and the ability to engineer an increasing number of solutions for our patients is tremendously exciting.

Substantial improvements can be anticipated in the near future by changing the 3D-printed structures with new advanced computer modeling, and I am especially excited about the opportunity to make less rigid implants for patients with a decreased bone mineral density and osteoporosis.

I am unsure if patient-specific 3D implants will eventually gain momentum, as the reimbursement landscape for such technologies has not proven to be a viable option in the joint replacement space with patient-specific total knee implants, for example.

I do feel, however, that a multitude of modular 3D-printed components can be designed to create intraoperatively a “near-specific” patient optimized implant, while keeping SKUs low for the companies providing these implants to our operating rooms.

One of the most exciting developments has recently come about with the introduction of molybdenum rhenium, which will be available as dedicated 3D-printed implants, instead of traditional titanium alloys. With greater optimized modulus of elasticity and excellent strength, these implants will have a greater hydrophilicity to encourage faster bone incorporation after implantation, possibly paving the way to new motion-sparing technologies that were simply not able to be created in prior decades.

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