Implants can be defined as objects or material which is inserted or grafted into the body for therapeutic, prosthetic, diagnostic and experimental purposes. A variety of materials, such as stainless steel and titanium, have been used for years for implants. The recent technical advancement in the field of implantology is the advent of biodegradable implants. A brief about biodegradable implants is discussed in this article.
The first biodegradable implant was developed in the mid-90s. Biodegradable implants cause the injured tissues to regrow and hence are used in treating small fractures. The first biodegradable implant was called ReJoint and was developed by the researchers at Tampere University of Technology in Finland. These biodegradable implants have an advantage over the conventional implants in aiding the growth of the joints, allowing the bone ends to remain intact. The various materials used are Polyglycolic acid (PGA), Poly-L-Lactic acid (PLLA) and polylactide copolymers.
Applications of biodegradable implants:
The biodegradable implants were intended to be used in small fingers and toes to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The biodegradable implants, when placed within the joint capsules, give a cushioning effect to bone ends. These implants permit considerable movement to the joints as well as allow the growth of the injured tissues. Biodegradable implants trigger fibrous tissue formation and hence a neo joint is formed in the place of the implant. Biodegradable implants promote osteogenesis and also aid in the release of antibiotics, and they can also be used as an anti-adhesive membrane to prevent adhesion in flexor tendon surgeries. They also act as a matrix for cells in cartilage, connective tissue and bone.
An additional surgery has to be performed to remove the implant in case of titanium implants. This is not needed in the case of biodegradable implants. Traditional implants may have to be removed because of corrosion, irritation to the surrounding tissues and may even cause bone resorption, which can be avoided using biodegradable implants. Traditional implants replace the bone ends with a man-made material, while biodegradable implants leave the bone ends intact.
Disadvantages of biodegradable implants:
Biodegradable implants are more expensive than the traditional implants. They are less strong than the metal implants. Biodegradable implants may cause osteolysis of the peri-implant bone tissues and may cause sterile draining sinuses. These implants, when placed in the intra-particular area, may cause synovitis. Hence placing implants in the intra-particular area is usually avoided.
Rejoint has received the CE mark approval and hence can be sold within Europe. It has been used in over 200 patients with increased success. Biodegradable implants are thus a boon for the field of implantology.