Sabine Ponader, Cornelius von Wilmowsky, Martin Widenmayer, Rainer Lutz, Peter Heinl, Carolin Körner, Robert F. Singer, Emeka Nkenke, Friedrich W. Neukam, Karl A. Schlegel
Highly porous titanium structures are widely used for maxillofacial and orthopedic surgery because of their excellent mechanical properties similar to those of human bone and their facilitation of bone ingrowth. In contrast to common methods, the generation of porous titaniumproducts by selective electron beam melting (SEBM), an additive manufacturing technology, overcomes difficulties concerning the extreme chemical affinity of liquid titanium to atmospheric gases which consequently leads to strongly reduced ductility of the metal. The purpose of this study was to assess the suitability of a smooth compact and a porous Ti-6Al-4V structure directly produced by the SEBM process as scaffolds for bone formation. SEBM-processed titanium implants were placed into defects in the frontal skull of 15 domestic pigs. To evaluate the direct contact between bone and implant surfaces and to assess the ingrowth of osseous tissue into the porous structure, microradiographs and histomorphometric analyses were performed 14, 30, and 60 days after surgery. Bone ingrowth increased significantly during the period of this study. After 14 days the most outer regions of the implants were already filled with newly formed bone tissue (around 14%). After 30 days the bone volume inside the implants reached almost 30% and after 60 days abundant bone formation inside the implants attained 46%. During the study only scarce bone–implant contact was found around all implants, which did not exceed 9% around compact specimens and 6% around porous specimens after 60 days. This work demonstrates that highly porous titanium implants with excellent interconnectivity manufactured using the SEBM method are suitable scaffolds for bone ingrowth. This technique is a good candidate for orthopedic and maxillofacial applications.