Background: Porous tantalum has been shown to be effective in achieving bone ingrowth. However, in some circumstances, bone quality or quantity may be insufficient to allow adequate bone ingrowth. We hypothesized that local delivery of alendronate from porous tantalum would enhance the ability of the tantalum to achieve bone ingrowth when there is a gap between the implant and bone. We evaluated the effect of alendronate-coated porous tantalum on new bone formation in an animal model incorporating a gap between the implant and bone.
Methods: A cylindrical porous tantalum implant was implanted in the distal part of each femur in eighteen rabbits (a total of thirty-six implants) and left in situ for four weeks. Three types of porous tantalum implants were inserted: those with no coating (the control group), those with microporous calcium phosphate coating, and those coated with microporous calcium phosphate and alendronate. Subcutaneous fluorescent labeling was used to track new bone formation. Bone formation was analyzed with backscattered electron microscopy and fluorescent microscopy of undecalcified samples.
Results: The relative increases in the mean volume of gap filling, bone ingrowth, and total bone formation in the group treated with the porous tantalum implants coated with calcium phosphate and alendronate were 143% (p < 0.001), 259% (p < 0.001), and 193% (p < 0.001), respectively, compared with the values in the control group treated with the uncoated porous tantalum implants. The percentage of the length of the implant that was in contact with new bone in the group treated with the calcium phosphate and alendronate coating was increased by an average of 804% compared with the percentage in the group treated with the uncoated implants.
Conclusions: The study demonstrated significantly enhanced filling of the bone-implant gap and bone ingrowth in association with the porous tantalum implants coated with calcium phosphate and alendronate.
Clinical Relevance: The addition of an alendronate-delivery surface coating would enhance biological fixation of a tantalum implant and promote the healing of bone defects and thus address the clinical problem of revision joint replacement in the face of bone loss.