UHMWPE Sublaminar Wires in Posterior Spinal Instrumentation Stability and Biocompatibility Assessment in an Ovine Pilot Study

Rob Bogie*, Laura Voss, J.J. Arts, Arno Lataster, Paul C. Willems, Boudewijn Brans, Lodewijk W. van Rhijn, Tim J. M. Welting

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


An animal study.To explore ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) sublaminar wires in spinal surgery and to assess stability and biocompatibility of the UHMWPE instrumentation in an ovine model.Sublaminar wiring is a well-established technique in segmental scoliosis surgery. However, during introduction and/or removal of the metal sublaminar wires, neurological problems can occur. Abrasion after cutting metal wires for removal can lead to damage to the dural sac. Sublaminar wires have to withhold large forces and breakage of the wires can occur. Different types of sublaminar wires have been developed to address these problems. UHMWPE sublaminar wires can potentially substitute currently used metal sublaminar metal wires. In vivo testing and biocompatibility analysis of UHMWPE wires are recommended before clinical use in spinal surgery.In 6 immature sheep, pedicle screws were instrumented at lumbar level L4 and attached with titanium rods to 4 thoracolumbar vertebrae using 3- and 5-mm-wide UHMWPE sublaminar wiring constructions in 5 animals. Titanium sublaminar wires were applied in 1 animal to function as a control subject. After a follow-up period of 16 weeks, the animals were sacrificed and the spines were isolated. Radiographs and computed tomography (CT) scans were made to assess stability of the instrumentation. The vertebrae were dissected for macroscopic and histologic evaluation.None of the wires had loosened and the instrumentation remained stable. CT scans and radiographs showed no signs of failure of the instrumentation and no neurological complications occurred. Although several bony bridges were seen on CT, growth was observed at the operated levels. Biocompatibility was assessed by macroscopical and histologic analysis, showing no signs of dural or epidural inflammation.This pilot animal study shows that UHMWPE sublaminar wiring is a safe technique. The UHMWPE wires are biocompatible and provide sufficient stability in spinal instrumentation. Heterotopic ossification because of periost reactions in the ovine spine led to some restrictions in this study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E542-E549
Issue number10
Early online date8 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • scoliosis
  • sublaminar wires
  • posterior instrumentation
  • sheep

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