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Lippincott Williams and Wilkins

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Study Design. The sheep anterior lumbar spinal fusion model was used to study the efficacy of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-2 (rhBMP-2)–collagen composite in comparison with autograft to enhance spinal interbody fusion. Comparisons were drawn from temporal radiographic and end-point biomechanical and histologic data.

Objective. To analyze histologically the ability of rhBMP-2 to achieve complete arthrodesis between vertebral bodies.

Summary of Background Data. Studies using rhBMP for enhancement of anterior interbody fusion have used numerous endpoints. However, systematic histologic evaluation of the fusion has not been conducted.

Methods. Twelve sheep underwent single-level anterior lumbar interbody fusion performed with a cylindrical fenestrated titanium interbody fusion device (INTER FIX, Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc., Memphis, TN). The device was filled either with rhBMP-2–collagen (n = 6) or autogenous iliac crest bone graft (n = 6). Radiologic evaluation was carried out at 2-month intervals, and all sheep were killed 6 months after surgery. Nondestructive biomechanical testing for stiffness to flexion, extension, and lateral bending moments, un-decalcified histology, and qualitative and quantitative histologic evaluation were performed.

Results. Radiographs revealed a bony bridge anterior to the cage in five of six rhBMP-2-treated animals, whereas it was present only in one of five in the autogenous bone graft group. Segments treated with rhBMP-2 were 20% stiffer in flexion than autograft-treated segments at 6 months. Six of six in the rhBMP-2 group and two of six in the autograft group showed complete fusion. There was a significantly higher rate of bony continuity observed at the fenestrations of the rhBMP-2 group. Three times more number of cage fenestrations in the rhBMP-2 group demonstrated “all-bone” when compared with the autograft group (P < 0.001). Further, the scar tissue in and around the autograft-treated cages was 16-fold more (P < 0.01) than that seen for rhBMP-2-treated cages.

Conclusions. The study demonstrates that rhBMP-2 can lead to earlier radiologic fusion and a more consistent increased stiffness of the segments when compared with autograft in sheep anterior lumbar interbody fusion. Furthermore, a three times higher histologic fusion rate is attainable with significantly reduced fibrous tissue around the implant when rhBMP-2 is used.


Accepted version. Spine, Vol. 27, No. 6 (March 15, 2002): 567-575. Publisher link. © 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc. Used with permission.

Jeffrey M. Toth was affiliated with the Medical College of Wisconsin at the time of publication.