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Lippincott Williams and Wilkins

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Study Design. A randomized experimental evaluation of direct current stimulation in a validated animal model with an experimental control group, using blinded radiographic, biomechanical, histologic, and statistical measures.

Objectives. To evaluate the efficacy of the adjunctive use of direct current stimulation on the fusion rate and speed of healing of titanium interbody fusion cages packed with autograft in a sheep lumbar interbody fusion model.

Summary of Background Data. Titanium lumbar interbody spinal fusion cages have been reported to be 90% effective for single-level lumbar interbody fusion. However, fusion rates are reported to be between 70% and 80% in patients with multilevel fusions or with risk factors such as obesity, tobacco use, or metabolic disorders. The authors hypothesized that direct current stimulation would increase the fusion rate of titanium interbody fusion cages packed with autograft in a sheep lumbar interbody fusion model.

Methods. Twenty-two sheep underwent lumbar discectomy and fusion at L4–L5 with an 11- × 20-mm Bagby and Kuslich (BAK) cage packed with autograft. Seven sheep received a BAK cage and no current. Seven sheep had a cage and a 40-μA current applied with a direct current stimulator. Eight sheep had a BAK cage and a 100-μA current applied. All sheep were killed 4 months after surgery. The efficacy of electrical stimulation in promoting interbody fusion was assessed by performing radiographic, biomechanical, and histologic analyses in a blinded fashion.

Results. The histologic fusion rate increased as the direct current dose increased from 0 μA to 40 μA to 100 μA (P < 0.009). Histologically, all animals in the 100-μA group had fusions in both the right and left sides of the cage. Direct current stimulation had a significant effect on increasing the stiffness of the treated motion segment in right lateral bending (P < 0.120), left lateral bending (P < 0.017), right axial rotation (P < 0.004), left axial rotation (P < 0.073), extension (P < 0.078), and flexion (P < 0.029) over nonstimulated levels.

Conclusion. Direct current stimulation increased the histologic and biomechanical fusion rate and the speed of healing of lumbar interbody spinal fusion cages in an ovine model at 4 months.


Accepted version. Spine, Vol 25, No. 20 (October 15, 2000): 2580-2587. Publisher link. © 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc. Used with permission.

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