A systematic review of metal ion concentrations following instrumented spinal fusion
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© 2020, Scoliosis Research Society. Purpose: Metallic spinal implants undergo wear and corrosion which liberates ionic or particulate metal debris. The purpose of this study was to identify and review studies that report the concentration of metal ions following multi-level spinal fusion and to evaluate the impact on clinical outcomes. Methods: Databases (PubMed, EBSCO MEDLINE) were searched up to August 2019 for studies in English-language assessing metal ion levels [chromium (Cr), titanium (Ti), nickel (Ni)] in whole blood, serum, or plasma after spinal fusion using a specific search string. Study, patient, and implant characteristics, method of analysis, metal ion concentration, as well as clinical and radiographic results was extracted. Results: The systematic search yielded 18 studies encompassing 653 patients. 9 studies reported Ti ions, eight reported Cr, and six reported Ni. Ti levels were elevated compared to controls/reference range/preoperative baseline in seven studies with the other two reporting no difference. Cr levels were elevated compared to controls/reference range in seven studies with one reporting no difference. Ni levels showed no difference from controls/reference range in four studies with one reporting above normal and another elevated compared to controls. Radiographic evidence of corrosion, implant failure, pseudarthrosis, revision surgery and adverse reaction reporting was highly variable. Conclusion: Metal ions are elevated after instrumented spinal fusion; notably Cr levels from stainless steel implants and Ti from titanium implants. The association between clinical and radiographic outcomes remain uncertain but is concerning. Further research with standardized reporting over longer follow-up periods is indicated to evaluate the clinical impact and minimizing risk.