3-dimensional printing for anterior cervical surgery: a review

Wen Jie Choy, William C. H. Parr, Kevin Phan, William R. Walsh, Ralph J. Mobbs


Age-related degenerative changes and non-spondylotic pathologies of the cervical spine such as trauma and tumor can lead to compression of neurological structures and result in substantial alteration of the structural anatomy. The end-goal of surgical intervention is to decompress the neural structures which can be achieved via an anterior or a posterior approach, and stabilization of segments to restore stability and alignment. Three-dimensional printing (3DP or Additive Manufacturing) has been applied to the field of medicine, in particular orthopedics and neurosurgery. Coupled with advances of medical imaging such as computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), accurate 3D models of patient anatomy can be produced, and patient-specific implants (PSIs) for complex anatomical reconstruction have all been applied with positive outcomes. 3D printed implants have been applied in particular to the cervical spine predominantly due to the complex and relatively small osteological anatomy and the proximity of important neurovascular structures to the surgical sites. The purpose of this review is to evaluate the current application of 3DP for cervical spinal implants. This includes a review on the available literature on 3D printed PSIs and current available 3D printed “off-the-shelf” (OTS) implants (3D-OTS). Suitable materials for 3DP of spinal implants and the future prospect of cervical implants will be discussed. The review will be concluded with a suggested guide for carrying future studies to evaluate the efficacy and safety of 3DP for cervical spinal implants.