Different types of spinal implants explained

Spinal diseases (SD) and side pains are serious medical, social, and economic problems. Its solution lies in an interdisciplinary approach with the participation of different medical specialists and the benefit of pharmacological therapy and operation. The last one often involves implementing implants – metal structures that facilitate fusion, correct deformities, steady, and strengthen the vertebrae.

Physician practice - medical visit - doctor and patient
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Of course, any patient must find the best spine implants manufacturer who can guarantee improved quality of life and a return to regular activity. The PremiaSpines team of experts will help you understand the types and design of implants, their application and also raise awareness of the particular decision consequences. This article promises to be interesting!

What are spinal implants?

Spinal implants are constructions utilized to relieve pain in the five regions of the vertebral column and differ in material, purpose, and mobility. 

They’re made from titanium, alloy, or steel, which is stainless, carbon fiber, and in some cases, polymers. Titanium is the most popular material because it’s strong, lightweight, and, unlike stainless steel, won’t interfere with an MRI scan. Implants inserted between the vertebral bodies can belong to the fusion and non-fusion, providing for a rigid and flexible structure, respectively. They’re developed individually for each patient, regardless of age. 

The revolution and the purpose of spinal implants

The vast majority of technological advances in fusion surgery have occurred in the past 50 years. The fight against diseases of the spine was traced back to the 5th century BC among the Greeks, who used the classical method of treatment by laying patients on “the rack” for curvature correction. Soon, corsets, wire wrapped around the spine, braces (by the way, they’re still used), acupuncture, nerve block therapy, manipulation of the back by physiotherapists, and fusion surgery appeared. Today they’ve become relics that either don’t work or cannot match the effectiveness of alternative methods. 

The various etiology of degenerative diseases, injuries, and sprains involves treatment with drugs aimed at adequate pain relief by the WHO analgesic ladder. In this case, the reaction to medications can be limited by physiological characteristics. E.g., the spine anatomy, when the intervertebral disc tissues become avascular at two years of age.

If conservative treatment fails, conventional or minimally invasive surgery should be performed. For example, stenosis can be treated in two ways: either by fusion surgery or by using the TOPS™ system. And suppose the first option provides for a rigid structure that doesn’t allow performing many movements. In that case, the second one replaces bone and soft tissues, guaranteeing a return to everyday life.

Types of spine implants

Spinal implants are divided into two categories: fusion and non-fusion. 


This operation involves the fusion of the vertebral bodies using a bone graft:

  • Cage

That’s a hollow center construction with perforated walls utilized for nerve root damage and collapsed discs. Due to the porous material, it stimulates the growth of bone tissue. 

  • Plate

Plate grafts are screwed to the vertebrae to steady the spinal column. 

  • Rod

Usually, the rods are attached to the vertebrae with hooks or transpedicular screws to steady the spine. 

  • Pedicle screw

Traditionally, they’re used as anchor points for dorsal rods and for fixing bone fractures in the lumbar and thoracic spine.

  • Spinal cord stimulator

The device sends electrical shocks to the spine. While scientifically, it’s supposed to alleviate the disease symptoms and stop the pain; it also changes the way the spine works. The consequences of the operation are:

  • Infections;
  • Increased pressure on other vertebrae;
  • Possible subsequent interventions that can lead to disability.

In addition, many movements available to a healthy person will become impossible for such patients. For example, they’re prohibited from lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk during rehabilitation.

Modern medicine is constantly improving, presenting alternatives to the public. There’s a minimally invasive method of non-fusion surgery. Let’s consider it.

TOPS™ system

It involves introducing a dynamic implant, as a result of which decompression is optimized, the spine becomes more stable, pain is relieved, and movement is maintained. The structure consists of two titanium plates with a mechanical device attached to the spine with four screws. It provides rotation, flexion, and extension. 

The implant replaces the facet joint, which is removed during decompression. Its metal anchors replace natural bone elements. 

The main conditions for surgery

Thirty-three vertebrae and the disks between them allow a person to perform many movements – stand, sit, twist, and turn around. But 80% of adults worldwide experience lower back pain at some point and cannot afford regular activity. 

Fusion implants are used for the treatment of patients with osteochondrosis, scoliosis, and traumatic fractures. An alternative, the TOPS ™ system, is implanted at the affected level of the lumbar spine ( L4-L5, L3-L4, or L2-L3 vertebrae). It’s used for stenosis and degenerative spondylolisthesis.

Choosing a surgeon for the operation

If back or neck pain has led you to see rheumatologists, their experience will be a decisive factor in your future well-being. It’s about avoiding incompetence and medical errors during treatment and surgery. As you know, 250,000 people in the United States die annually from medical errors. We strongly advise you to choose a highly specialized doctor with experience in successful operations to avoid this. Your life will depend on your choice. 

It’s essential to pay attention to the types of implants and operations. For example, compare the benefits of lumbar laminectomy and the TOPS™ alternative.


Fusion implants are utilized in the modern world, but they’re not as effective as their alternative. By immobilizing a specific area of the back, they increase pressure on adjacent vertebrae. So there are risks associated with the occurrence of infections. The most terrible consequences are subsequent operations that eliminate the effects of the previous ones. 

Therefore, when choosing an implant with your doctor, all methods should be considered. And if you doubt, then better dive into the study of the topic.

Smaller incisions, shorter recovery times, better results – these are the goals of surgeons and patients with TOPS™. The spine becomes flexible and allows for previously inaccessible movements.

Interesting Related Article: “Lumbar Spinal Stenosis – Everything you Need to Know