The use of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein 2 (rhBMP-2) in routine anterior cervical fusion (ACF) is controversial. Early reports described high complication rates. A variety of dosing regimens ranging from 0.6 to 2.1 mg per level fused have been reported. The authors hypothesized that the high amounts of rhBMP-2 used in these studies led to the high complication rates observed; therefore, they set out to evaluate the safety and efficacy of low-dose rhBMP-2 for use in ACFs.
Patient inclusion criteria were 1) age 18 to 70 years; 2) initial stand-alone ACF construct; 3) fusion augmentation with rhBMP-2; and 4) at least 1 year of radiographic follow-up. A successful fusion was defined by either 1) lateral flexion-extension radiographs with less than 1 mm of movement across the fused spinous processes, or 2) bone bridging at least half of the fusion area originally achieved by surgery on fine-cut CT. Patient demographics, perioperative data, and postoperative complications were recorded.
A total of 198 patients met the inclusion criteria and were included for analysis. Sixty-two patients (31%) were smokers. The median number of levels fused was 2 (IQR 1.25). The mean dose of rhBMP-2 was 0.50 ± 0.09 mg per level. Twenty-two (11%) patients experienced dysphagia. Eleven (6%) patients experienced cervical swelling. Two (1%) patients returned to the operating room (OR) for postoperative hematoma. One (0.5%) patient returned to the OR for seroma. Two (1%) patients experienced pseudarthrosis requiring a posterior fusion. Three (2%) patients experienced a new postoperative neurological deficit that had recovered by last the follow-up. Overall, 190 (96%) patients experienced solid arthrodesis over an average of 15 months of follow-up. There was no difference in fusion rates between patients who were either smokers or nonsmokers (p = 0.7073).
The use of low-dose rhBMP-2 safely and effectively augmented anterior cervical arthrodesis. The low-dose protocol assessed in this study appeared to significantly reduce complications associated with rhBMP-2 use in ACF compared with the literature. The authors have determined that using low-dose rhBMP-2 in patients who are smokers, those with multilevel ACFs, or others at high risk of developing pseudarthrosis is recommended.