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Researcher seeking to dissolve the cost of secondary surgery

Canterbury researcher seeking to dissolve the cost of secondary surgery

June 8, 2014

A University of Canterbury researcher is investigating the potential benefits of using degradable metallic alloy plates and screws for patients with serious head injuries.

Mechanical engineering’s Dr Mark Staiger believes that in the not-so-distant future magnesium metal plates or screws that break down safely within the body will be useful in treating bone fractures.

The costs of treating people with severe head or facial injuries are high while the current solutions are not ideal, Dr Staiger says. Degradable plates or screws would substantially improve surgical management of head or facial fractures and would lower patient management costs.

``During its lifetime, an implant that is intended to temporarily assist the healing of a bone will transition from an implant to a foreign body, once the body has healed itself. A major driver of this research is the cost-effective removal of this foreign body by having it biodegrade after having completed its role in bone healing,’’ Dr Staiger says.

``Along with collaborators from Otago University, we are developing degradable magnesium plates and screws that will improve hospital costs and patient outcomes, representing a paradigm shift in the current technology. This new approach will deliver reduced patient recovery time by enhancing new bone formation and reduce cost by eliminating the need for secondary surgery to remove implants.

``Based on the number of plates used annually at Dunedin hospital and the cost of maxillofacial surgery, plate removal alone is estimated to cost the New Zealand health system $12 million a year alone, while world-wide the total costs are staggering.

``This research will attempt to eliminate current problems with permanent devices including growth restriction, bone resorption due to stress shielding and infection. Titanium implants are the current gold standard to obtain rigid fixation in damaged bone, partially based on the belief that titanium resists corrosion in the body.

``Rigid titanium-based plates or screws have gained widespread acceptance in correcting head deformities and in the management of fractures in the last two decades. However, 50 percent of all titanium plate systems require removal. A temporary biodegradable implant would eliminate the need for surgical removal of the implant. Our previous work on the breaking down of magnesium alloys has shown their potential as a new degradable implant material.

``We are looking to establish close partnerships with device manufacturers that will support the longer term development of degradable devices with the aim of creating new opportunities for the New Zealand biomedical industry,” Dr Staiger says.


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