Biodegradable implants are those implants that degenerate with time, along with the healing process facilitating the healing and regeneration of tissues more than the conventional implants. Implants made of materials such as titanium, stainless steel and cobalt chrome have been used for years, but the advent of the biodegradable implants is marking a new beginning in the world of implants. Biodegradable implants are especially useful for treating fractured joints, and the manner by which they work is discussed in this article.
Biodegradable implants have added advantage over the metal implants in orthopedic surgeries for treating fractures of small bones. These implants are used in metaphyseal and periarticular fractures where there are lesser loads and in small areas, such as ankles and elbows. The biodegradable implants promote osteosynthesis more than metal implants. Hence the healing of fractures is uneventful. The main advantage of these implants is that a second surgery is not necessary for its removal, unlike the metal implants.
Another advantage is that this material used on the joint ends, as in cases of rheumatoid arthritis and in joint fractures, keeps the bone ends of the joint intact, while promoting the re-growth of the bone. But when the metal implants are placed, the implant takes the place of the bone end and the bone ends are permanently compromised and are replaced by the implant.
Biodegradable implants, on the other hand, promote osteosynthesis because of their degeneration. The increased pressure put on the bone due to its degeneration also aids in neojoint formation. The implant material can act as a foreign body and can promote fibrous tissue formation. All these help in preserving the bone end intact, unlike the metal implants. The world`s first biodegradable implant available for orthopedic surgery is called the RegJoint.
Metal implants can cause corrosion, osteopenia, resorption of the surrounding bone and inflammatory changes, which are overcome by biodegradable implants. However, it is said that biodegradable implants, when used intra-articularly, cause synovitis. The biodegradable implants are also used as interference screws in knee ligament surgeries, for the slow release of antibiotics and growth factors, to prevent adhesions in flexon tendon surgeries, as an anti adhesive membrane and as a matrix in connective tissue surgeries.
The orthopaedic surgeon considers a number of factors before fixation of the fractured joint. Though the single-time use of the biodegradable implants is expensive, it definitely reduces the trauma and the expense of a second surgery, as in the case of a metal implant. Considering the patient factors and financial provisions, the biodegradable implants can provide better lasting effects than a metal implant.