I saw a special on TV about the new titanium cages for spinal fusion. How do they know these really work?
Chronic low back pain can be a serious problem. Sometimes, the spine must be fused to keep it from moving. In the past, bone chips were used to fuse the spine. There are quite a few problems with bone grafting. Doctors are looking for ways around bone grafts.
One of these alternative approaches is the use of titanium cages. These come in different sizes and shapes, but all fit into the disk space between vertebrae. They are screwed into the bone to hold them in place.
New ideas and new products like these are always tested on human cadavers or animals first. A cadaver is a body preserved after death for study. Doctors at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas inserted titanium cages into nine cadavers. The goal was to test the loads between and inside the cages.
Each spine went through 1500 cycles of movement. Researchers report the results and these make their way into news reports, journal articles, and television specials. Studies are often repeated by the same group or other groups for further proof that the idea works.