Elastic modulus in the selection of interbody implants

Robert F. Heary, Naresh Parvathreddy, Sujitha Sampath, Nitin Agarwal


Background: The modulus of elasticity of an assortment of materials used in spinal surgery, as well as cortical and cancellous bones, is determined by direct measurements and plotting of the appropriate curves. When utilized in spine surgery, the stiffness of a surgical implant can affect its material characteristics. The modulus of elasticity, or Young’s modulus, measures the stiffness of a material by calculating the slope of the material’s stress-strain curve. While many papers and presentations refer to the modulus of elasticity as a reason for the choice of a particular spinal implant, no peer-reviewed surgical journal article has previously been published where the Young’s modulus values of interbody implants have been measured.
Methods: Materials were tested under pure compression at the rate of 2 mm/min. A maximum of 45 kilonewtons (kN) compressive force was applied. Stress-strain characteristics under compressive force were plotted and this plot was used to calculate the elastic modulus.
Results: The elastic modulus calculated for metals was more than 50 Gigapascals (GPa) and had significantly higher modulus values compared to poly-ether-ether-ketone (PEEK) materials and allograft bone.
Conclusions: The data generated in this paper may facilitate surgeons to make informed decisions on their choices of interbody implants with specific attention to the stiffness of the implant chosen.