3D-printed spinal implants debut at NSUH

Get it straight: 3D-printed spinal impants are giving Northwell Health neurosurgeons and patients new treatment options.

Surgical patients have received the first batch of 3D-printed titanium spinal implants at North Shore University Hospital.

The implants were part of spinal decompression and fusion surgeries performed at the Manhasset hospital, including a procedure performed on Kim Pierre, a 54-year-old nurse from the Elmont section of Queens who suffers from spondylosis, a disease that destabilizes the spine and compresses the spinal nerves.

Pierre, who reported 13 years of debilitating back pain before her procedure Tuesday, had tried several nonsurgical treatments over the years, including epidural steroid injections and various chiropractic manipulations. Nothing worked – and because she’s a nurse, painkillers were not an option.

Enter neurosurgeon Mark Eisenberg of the Northwell Health Neuroscience Institute, a comprehensive team of neuroscience subspecialists that performs neurosurgeries and other neurology services around Greater New York. Eisenberg determined Pierre was a good candidate for a decompressive laminectomy – a common procedure for treating spinal stenosis, wherein surgeons remove the lamina (the back part of the vertebra) – with a spinal fusion.

“In this procedure, parts of the vertebrae are removed that are causing narrowing of the spinal canal and pinching of nerve roots,” Eisenberg noted Wednesday. “In addition to a decompressive laminectomy, some patients, like Ms. Pierre, also require a spinal fusion at the same time in order to stabilize the spine.”

Back to the future: A 3D-printed spinal implant made from titanium could mean a pain-free future for RN Kim Pierre.

The cutting-edge procedure also involved grinding the removed bone to make a temporary bridge between the vertebrae, with the addition of a metal scaffolding – including screws and rods – to hold the vertebrae together until new bone grows between them.

In the cases of Pierre and the other pioneering NSUH patients, the procedure also incorporated a next-level implant known as the Cascadia AN Interbody System, which is comprised of titanium powder – meaning surgeons don’t have to remove bone from somewhere else in the patient’s body, or from a cadaver – and manufactured through a 3D-printing process.

The synthetic implant is not only strong and exact, but “allows for the patient’s own bone to grow into the frame to provide long-term physiologic fusion,” Northwell Health said.

Cascadia, developed by Virginia-based medical device company K2M Group Holdings, was approved in 2016 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While it’s too soon for a post-operative prognosis in any of the NSUH Cascadia cases, Pierre, for one, is anticipating a more mobile, less painful existence.

“I am looking forward to walking outside for blocks at a time,” she said in a statement.

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