Research undertaken by the University of Sydney, the Heart Research Institute and the University Medical Centre Utrecht in the Netherlands has led to the development of a new plasma coating for orthopaedic implants, with a view to improving their longevity.
Orthopaedic implants involve the replacement of a patient’s missing bone, or support of a damaged bone, using a synthetic product. Common examples of orthopaedic implants include hip and knee replacements, which are often required for older people, or for patients with sports injuries. While there are usually no serious complications with these procedures, patients can find that their bodies reject the implant, and infection is also a risk afterwards. If the implant is not well-integrated with the existing bone, complications are more likely to occur, leading to an increased risk of the patient having to undergo revision surgery and prolonging their recovery period.
The research, published in Applied Materials Today, a journal that focuses on the uses of different and novel materials, investigated how to reduce the risk of orthopaedic implants being rejected due to poor integration. A new type of coating was developed, including a ‘bioactive molecule’ that encourages the body’s stem cells to grow bone cells around the implant, which will more firmly attach it to the patient’s existing bone. The researchers also explained that the coating appears to the body to be biological, thus lessening the chance of the body rejecting the synthetic implant.
The research team, which is made up of physicists, engineers, medical professionals and experts in new materials, found that the coating did help to bind the implants to the existing bone, which they anticipate should lower the chance of infection and increase the life of the implant. For the patient, this means that they should have fewer revision surgeries and suffer fewer complications following their implant procedure. Further testing is due to take place in the Netherlands before the coating can be made available to patients.
Victoria Johnson, an associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches Cooper, said: “It is exciting to see these types of advances being made. We know the positive effect that orthopaedic implants, such as hip replacements, can have on patients’ lives when they go well, and the hugely negative impact when complications occur and revision surgery is required.
“If the new coating can reduce the risks of post-operative complications and allow patients to get back to their normal day-to-day lives as soon as possible, this will not only help them but also reduce the cost to the NHS of further surgeries that may not be needed.”