Objectives: Increased wettability of titanium and titanium alloy surfaces due to processing and storage methods increases osteoprogenitor cell differentiation and osseointegration compared to microroughness alone. Implants that are exposed to air have a hydrophobic surface due to adsorption of atmospheric hydrocarbons, which can limit overall implant success. Dielectric barrier discharge plasma (DBD) is one method to increase surface hydrophilicity. Although current DBD methods yield a hydrophilic surface, adsorbed carbons rapidly restore hydrophobicity. We demonstrated that application of DBD to implants previously packaged in a vacuum, generates a hydrophilic surface that supports osteoblastic differentiation in vitro and this can be done immediately prior to use. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that DBD treatment to alter surface wettability at the time of implant placement will improve osseointegration in vivo.
Materials and methods: Twenty male and sixteen female rabbits were used in a preclinical trans-axial femur model of osseointegration. Control and DBD treatment implants were inserted randomized per hind limb in each rabbit (1 implant/hind-limb). At 6 weeks post-surgery, bone-to-implant contact, adjacent bone volume, and torque to failure were sessed by micro-CT, calcified histology, and mechanical testing.
Results: DBD plasma treatment of vacuum-sealed implants increased surface wettability and did not change surface chemistry or roughness. Peak torque and torsional energy, and bone-to-implant contact increased with DBD treatment in males. In contrast, female rabbits showed increased osseointegration equal to DBD-treated male implants regardless of DBD plasma treatment.
Conclusion: DBD treatment is an effective method to enhance osseointegration by increasing surface wettability; however, this response is sex-dependent. In healthy female patients, DBD treatment may not be necessary but in older patients or patients with compromised bone, this treatment could be an effective measure to ensure implant success.