Surgeons often use metal plates as kind of an internal brace so patients don't need to wear a neck collar while bones heal. But some patients can develop allergies to certain types of metals.
But here's what's new. A plate that gets absorbed after the bones have healed. It looks like plastic, but it's actually made of a bio-absorbable sugar.
It's placed just as a metal plate would be, holding the bones together while they fuse. And then after a year or so, the plate and even the screws are absorbed by the body.
"The patient doesn't have to worry about living with a permanent implant in their body and it's also in terms of its bio mechanical characteristics, it's closer to bone than what metal would be," says Dr. Roger Hartl, Neurosurgeon.
At this point, the dissolvable sugar plate is usable for most patients who need a fusion in their neck, but just at a single level and only in the neck. Such dissolvable plates are not yet approved for use in the lower or lumbar spine.