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Silicon Nitride Material in Orthopaedic Implants: Features and Benefits

Q:Dr. Skidmore, what would you like surgeons to know about Silicon Nitride?
A: Surgeons have searched for materials and new design structures to improve patient outcomes for years. Silicon Nitride has a proven track record to help improve patient outcomes. The material offers a variety of imaging benefits and can be manufactured to allow for intraoperative visualization while also enhancing the CT and MRI evaluation of bony and soft-tissue structures, which helps surgeons more effectively evaluate the bone/implant interface. Finally, the material behaves much like PEEK and Ti, allowing for a minimal learning curve for surgeons.

The same properties that appear to be responsible for early bone cell adherence appear to impart an antibacterial property to the material. The scientific data recently published and subsequently presented as a poster at the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and presented orally at the North American Spine Society show its antimicrobial behavior. Again, early protein adherence to the surface perhaps prevents a biofilm formation, which is an early progenitor of an infectious process or bacterial colonization. This imparts a distinct advantage to this material over both PEEK and titanium, which have been commonly used in the past and makes this a clearly distinctive and beneficial material for use in this space.

Q: Eric Olson, how might Silicon Nitride change the standard of patient care? What lies ahead?
A: With recent changes in Federal reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid patients, which will provide global reimbursement for overall outcomes instead of a strictly fee for service, physicians and hospitals have become focused on finding methods to improve their surgical outcomes. Recent in vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated that Silicon Nitride is osteopromotive and anti-infective, which should help reach these improved patient outcome objectives.

The use of Silicon Nitride products, in a clinical setting, should allow hospitals and surgeons to benefit from higher reimbursements for spinal fusion procedures, because of the reduced risk for infection and increased potential for improved fusion rates.

We are evaluating the application of Silicon Nitride in many other types of medical devices including dental implants and suture anchors, and could potentially develop anti-infective Silicon Nitride coated metal implants. This technology could penetrate the total joint, spine and dental markets, improving patient outcomes.


Eric Olson is the Chief Executive Officer, President & Director of Amedica. His prior positions include Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Axial Biotech, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Facet Solutions and senior business development, sales and marketing positions with companies including Medtronic Neurological and Smith & Nephew.

Dr. Thomas J. Webster is the Department Chair of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University in Boston. His research explores the use of nanotechnology in numerous applications.

Dr. Grant Skidmore specializes in adult neurosurgery at Neurosurgical Specialists, Inc., an all-encompassing progressive neurosurgical practice.

This article initially appeared in ORTHOPRENEUR at www.orthopreneurpub.com.

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