Piedmont Augusta Neurosurgeon First in US to Use New 3D-Modeled Cage for Spinal Fusion

(Augusta, GA – April 20, 2022) Jonathan Tuttle, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Piedmont Augusta, recently had the opportunity to be the first surgeon in the U.S. to utilize a new 3D-modeled lumbar titanium cage for spinal fusion surgery.

Spinal fusion has been around since the early 1900s and, according to history, was initially used to treat tuberculosis patients.

However, techniques and tools used in this surgery are ever-evolving, making the procedure safer for the patient and more streamlined for the surgeon. The new German-made BEE® PLIF cage is efficient for surgeons to use and showed strong potential in patients in Europe.

Spinal fusions are completed in many different ways, some with just screws and rods, and others with a cage in the disc space. The devices we use help achieve a bony fusion and Dr. Tuttle said it's a race between when the bones grow together or fuse versus when the screws and rods begin to loosen from the spine.

"One of the ways we can try to enhance that fusion process is to put this sort of cage into the disk space," Dr. Tuttle said. “To promote fusion, we clean out a portion of the disk and pack bone-grafting material in there before we put the cage into the disk space."

It's that bone graft that helps facilitate the bones to grow into the disk space for the fusion to occur, he said.

Again, cages are not new, but Dr. Tuttle said the unique design of the BEE PLIF is a nice newer design in spinal fusion surgery. It allows the surgeon to place additional bone-grafting material within the cage itself, with the goal of maintaining spinal curvature and providing additional support.

The honeycomb design of the BEE PLIF allows the bone to grow through the cage, leading to a good chance of fusion, which results in spinal stability.

"When I compare this cage to others I've used, it almost looked like, instead of PEEK cages, these titanium cages have a lot of little openings or pores for bony ingrowth," he said.

Dr. Tuttle completed his first surgery on Feb. 18, 2022, and although the patient will take six to eight months to heal fully, he has already used the BEE PLIF in a second surgery, which went well too.

"So in the early stages, it's been working well," he said. "I like the insertion of (the BEE PLIF) a little bit better than what I was using before, and it just seems to be a better design."

The FDA-approved BEE PLIF cages honeycomb structure allows for more efficient bone growth, which should give patients a stable outcome.