Silicon Nitride: A Next Generation Spinal Implant Material (Q&A)
Eric Olson is the chief executive officer and president of Amedica, the only company that produces medical grade Silicon Nitride. He took a moment to participate in the following Q&A about the unique material and its impact in medical devices, specifically in the orthopedic implant area.
Q: What is Silicon Nitride?
Eric Olson: Silicon Nitride, or Si3N4, is a strong, heat-resistant material that can be manufactured into many different forms providing specific benefits for different types of surgical implants. Specifically for spinal and orthopedic procedures, Silicon Nitride’s exceptional properties present opportunities to develop devices that may ultimately deliver improved patient outcomes.
Q: What are the benefits of Silicon Nitride?
EO: Amedica’s Silicon Nitride technology has three key advantages compared to traditional implants typically comprised of poly-ether-ether-ketone, or PEEK, and titanium including:
- New bone growth—The hydrophilic properties of Si3N4 help promote bone on-growth and osteogenerative proteins.
- Antimicrobial—Treating implant-related infections is costly and generally requires repeat surgery that could result in extended disability and suffering. Si3N4’s hydrophilic surface properties inhibit bacteria growth, potentially reducing the risk of infection.
- Enhanced imaging—Si3N4 is partially radiolucent with clearly visible boundaries. Additionally, it does not produce MRI or CT imaging artifacts. This is a major advantage for intraoperative implant placement and post-op assessment.
Q: Are there any negatives to using Silicon Nitride implants?
EO: Si3N4 is a disruptive technology at the helm of shifting the standard of care for interbody fusion devices. As with all new, disruptive technologies, an education and validation curve exists. Surgeons are embracing Valeo Interbody Fusion Devices. We recently announced the 10,000th worldwide implantation of the device.
Q: How is Silicon Nitride changing the spinal implant field?
EO: Surgeons have searched for materials and new design structures to improve patient outcomes for years. Silicon Nitride is that sought after biomaterial. Due to its proven record of superior new bone growth and antibacterial properties, surgeons are increasingly relying on Valeo Silicon Nitride Interbody Fusion Devices to increase the probability of fusion. In a clinical setting, the Si3N4 biomaterial should allow hospitals and surgeons to benefit from higher reimbursements for spinal fusion procedures, because of the reduced risk for infection and increased potential for improved fusion rates.
Q: What’s ahead for this technology?
EO: This is a momentous time for the company. Amedica is currently looking to expand Silicon Nitride beyond spinal fusion for different types of surgical implant devices, such as hip and knee replacements, dental implants, and suture anchors. The company recently received 510(k) clearance for a second generation design of its Valeo Interbody Fusion Devices, and is pursuing clearance of an interbody fusion device featuring a cancellous structure ceramic (CSC) core. CSC closely mimics the pore size of cancellous bone and is an ideal osteoconductive matrix that should allow bone to grow though the material.