The authors aimed to demonstrate the feasibility and advantages of carbon fiber-reinforced PEEK (CFRP) composite implants in patients with both primary and secondary osseous spinal tumors.
Twenty-eight spinal tumor patients who underwent fixation with CFRP hardware were retrospectively identified in a Spine Tumor Quality Database at a single institution. Demographic, procedural, and follow-up data were retrospectively collected.
The study population included 14 females and 14 males with a mean age of 60 years (range 30-86 years). Five patients had primary bone tumors, and the remaining patients had metastatic tumors. Breast cancer was the most common metastatic tumor. The most common presenting symptom was axial spine pain (25 patients, 89%), and the most common Spine Instability Neoplastic Score was 7 (range 6-14). Two patients in this series had anterior cervical procedures. The remaining patients underwent posterior thoracolumbar fixation. The average fusion length included 4.6 vertebral segments (range 3-8). The mean clinical follow-up time with surgical or oncology teams was 6.5 months (range 1-23 months), and the mean interval for last follow-up imaging (CT or MRI) was 6.5 months (range 1-22 months). Eighteen patients received postoperative radiation at the authors’ institution (16 with photon therapy, 2 with proton therapy). Eleven of the patients (39%) in this series died. At the last clinical follow-up, 26 patients (93%) had stable or improved neurological function compared with their preoperative status. At the last imaging follow-up, local disease control was observed in 25 patients (89%). Two patients required reoperation in the immediate postoperative period, one for surgical site infection and the other for compressive epidural hematoma. One patient was noted to have lucencies around the most cephalad screws 3 months after surgery. No hardware fracture or malfunction occurred intraoperatively. No patients required delayed surgery for hardware loosening, fracture, or other failure. Early tumor recurrence was detected in 3 patients. Early detection was attributed to the imaging characteristics of the CFRP hardware.
CFRP spinal implants appear to be safe and comparable to conventional titanium implants in terms of functionality. The imaging characteristics of CFRP hardware facilitate radiation planning and assessment of surveillance imaging. CFRP hardware may enhance safety and efficacy, particularly with particle therapy dosimetry. Larger patient populations with longer-term follow-up are needed to confirm the various valuable aspects of CFRP spinal implants.