Title:
Method and Spacer Device for Spanning a Space Formed upon Removal of an Intervertebral Disc
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An intervertebral spacer is designed particularly for patients who are not candidates for total disc replacement. The spacer maintains disc height and prevents subsidence with a large vertebral body contacting surface area while substantially reducing recovery time by eliminating the need for bridging bone. The intervertebral spacer or fusion spacer includes a rigid spacer body sized and shaped to fit within an intervertebral space between two vertebral bodies. In one embodiment, the spacer body has two opposed metallic vertebral contacting surfaces, at least one fin extending from each of the vertebral contacting surfaces and configured to be positioned within slots cut into the two vertebral bodies. Holes, if present, cover less than 40 percent of the entire vertebral body contacting surfaces to provide increased bone ongrowth surfaces and to prevent subsidence.



Inventors:
Hovda, David (Mountain View, CA, US)
Arramon, Yves (Sunnyvale, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/255731
Publication Date:
04/23/2009
Filing Date:
10/22/2008
Assignee:
SpinalMotion, Inc. (Mountain View, CA, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
128/898, 623/17.11
International Classes:
A61F2/44; A61B19/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
COTRONEO, STEVEN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WILSON SONSINI GOODRICH & ROSATI/Simplify Medical (PALO ALTO, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method of spanning a space formed by upon removal of an intervertebral disc, the method comprising: performing a discectomy to remove disc material between two adjacent vertebral bodies; placing an intervertebral spacer between the two adjacent vertebral bodies, the spacer comprising two end plates, each end plate having a metallic vertebral body contacting surface and an inner surface, and a connector interconnecting the inner surfaces of the two end plates in a rigid manner which limits motion between the plates to less than a total of 5 degrees, wherein the vertebral body contacting surfaces of the end plates have no holes therein or have holes which cover less than 40 percent of the vertebral body contacting surfaces; and maintaining the disc space between the two adjacent vertebral bodies with the intervertebral spacer without the use of bone graft or bridging bone.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the connector is a rigid connector.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the two end plates and connector are formed of a single piece of metal.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein the intervertebral spacer is selected, such that when the spacer is positioned between the two vertebral bodies the spacer fills at least 50 percent of a vertebral space formed between the vertebral bodies.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the vertebral body contacting surface of the end plates has holes which cover less than 25 percent of the vertebral body contacting surfaces.

6. The method of claim 1, further comprising cutting at least one slot in each of the adjacent vertebrae and placing a fin into the at least one slot.

7. The method of claim 6, further comprising at least one additional fixation means provided on the vertebral body contacting surfaces the intervertebral spacer.

8. The method of claim 7, wherein the additional fixation means is at least one of a screw, teeth, serrations or grooves.

9. The method of claim 1, wherein the metallic vertebral contacting surface is formed of titanium or a titanium alloy.

10. An intervertebral spacer for spanning a space formed by upon removal of an intervertebral disc, the spacer comprising: two end plates sized and shaped to fit within an intervertebral space, each end plate having a metallic vertebral contacting surface and an inner surface; a connector interconnecting the inner surfaces of the two end plates in a rigid manner which limits motion between the plates to less than a total of 5 degrees; and wherein the vertebral body contacting surfaces of the end plates have no holes therein or have holes which cover less than 40 percent of the vertebral body contacting surfaces.

11. The spacer of claim 10, wherein the connector is a rigid connector.

12. The spacer of claim 10, wherein the two end plates and connector are formed of a single piece of metal.

13. The spacer of claim 10, wherein the vertebral body contacting surface of the end plates has holes which cover less than 25 percent of the vertebral body contacting surfaces.

14. The spacer of claim 10, further comprising at least one fin extending from the vertebral contacting surfaces.

15. The spacer of claim 10, wherein the two end plates and connector are formed of PEEK with metallic screens, layers or coatings on the vertebral body contacting surfaces.

16. The spacer of claim 10, wherein the metallic vertebral contacting surface is formed of titanium or a titanium alloy.

17. A method of performing an anterior/posterior fusion, the method comprising: performing a discectomy to remove disc material between two adjacent vertebral bodies; placing an intervertebral spacer between the two adjacent discs, the spacer comprising two end plates, each end plate having a metallic vertebral contacting surface and an inner surface, and a rigid connector interconnecting the inner surfaces of the two end plates, wherein the vertebral body contacting surfaces of the end plates have no holes therein or have holes which cover less than 40 percent of the vertebral body contacting surfaces; maintaining the disc space between the two adjacent discs with the intervertebral spacer; and posteriorly placing a stabilization system to fix the angle between the vertebral bodies.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein the intervertebral spacer is placed anteriorly.

19. The method of claim 17, wherein the intervertebral spacer is place posteriorly.

20. The method of claim 19, wherein the posteriorly placed intervertebral spacer includes a two part spacer in which the two parts together cover about 40 percent or more of the vertebral surface.

21. The method of claim 19, wherein the posteriorly placed stabilization system includes at least one screw placed into each of the vertebral bodies and at least one connector therebetween.

22. The method of claim 19, wherein the method is performed without the use of bone graft.

23. The method of claim 19, wherein the vertebral body contacting surfaces of the end plates have holes which cover less than 25 percent of the vertebral body contacting surfaces.

24. A fusion system, the system comprising: an intervertebral spacer comprising: two end plates sized and shaped to fit within an intervertebral space, each end plate having a vertebral contacting surface an inner surface, wherein the vertebral body contacting surfaces of the end plates have no holes therein or have holes which cover less than 40 percent of the vertebral body contacting surfaces; and a rigid connector interconnecting the inner surfaces of the two end plates; and a posteriorly placed stabilization system including at least two screws configured to be placed into the vertebral bodies and at least one connector therebetween.

25. The system of claim 24, wherein the intervertebral spacer is a unitary spacer sized to be placed anteriorly.

26. The system of claim 24, wherein the intervertebral spacer is a two part spacer sized to be place posteriorly.

27. The system of claim 24, wherein the vertebral body contacting surfaces of the end plates have holes which cover less than 25 percent of the vertebral body contacting surfaces.

28. A fusion spacer comprising: a rigid spacer body sized and shaped to fit within an intervertebral space between two vertebral bodies, the body having two opposed metallic vertebral contacting surfaces; at least one fin extending from each of the vertebral contacting surfaces, the fins configured to be positioned within slots cut into the two vertebral bodies; a plurality of serrations on the vertebral contacting surfaces; and wherein holes cover less than 40 percent of the entire vertebral body contacting surfaces.

29. The spacer of claim 28, wherein holes cover less than 25 percent of the vertebral body contacting surfaces.

30. The spacer of claim 28, wherein the metallic vertebral contacting surfaces are formed of titanium or a titanium alloy.

31. The spacer of claim 30, wherein the body is a unitary metallic body.

32. The spacer of claim 30, wherein the body is formed of PEEK.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/981,665 filed Oct. 22, 2007, entitled “Method and Spacer Device for Spanning a Space Formed Upon Removal of an Intervertebral Disc,” the full disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to medical devices and methods. More specifically, the invention relates to intervertebral spacers and methods of spanning a space formed upon removal of an intervertebral disc.

Back pain takes an enormous toll on the health and productivity of people around the world. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, approximately 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some time in their life. In the year 2000, approximately 26 million visits were made to physicians' offices due to back problems in the United States. On any one day, it is estimated that 5% of the working population in America is disabled by back pain.

One common cause of back pain is injury, degeneration and/or dysfunction of one or more intervertebral discs. Intervertebral discs are the soft tissue structures located between each of the thirty-three vertebral bones that make up the vertebral (spinal) column. Essentially, the discs allow the vertebrae to move relative to one another. The vertebral column and discs are vital anatomical structures, in that they form a central axis that supports the head and torso, allow for movement of the back, and protect the spinal cord, which passes through the vertebrae in proximity to the discs.

Discs often become damaged due to wear and tear or acute injury. For example, discs may bulge (herniate), tear, rupture, degenerate or the like. A bulging disc may press against the spinal cord or a nerve exiting the spinal cord, causing “radicular” pain (pain in one or more extremities caused by impingement of a nerve root). Degeneration or other damage to a disc may cause a loss of “disc height,” meaning that the natural space between two vertebrae decreases. Decreased disc height may cause a disc to bulge, facet loads to increase, two vertebrae to rub together in an unnatural way and/or increased pressure on certain parts of the vertebrae and/or nerve roots, thus causing pain. In general, chronic and acute damage to intervertebral discs is a common source of back related pain and loss of mobility.

When one or more damaged intervertebral discs cause a patient pain and discomfort, surgery is often required. Traditionally, surgical procedures for treating intervertebral discs have involved discectomy (partial or total removal of a disc), with or without interbody fusion of the two vertebrae adjacent to the disc. When the disc is partially or completely removed, it is necessary to replace the excised material to prevent direct contact between hard bony surfaces of adjacent vertebrae. Oftentimes, pins, rods, screws, cages and/or the like are inserted between the vertebrae to act as support structures to hold the vertebrae and graft material in place while they permanently fuse together.

One typical fusion procedure is achieved by inserting a “cage” that maintains the space usually occupied by the disc to prevent the vertebrae from collapsing and impinging the nerve roots. The cage is used in combination with bone graft material (either autograft or allograft) such that the two vertebrae and the graft material will grow together over time forming bridging bone between the two vertebrae. The fusion process typically takes 6-12 months after surgery. During in this time external bracing (orthotics) may be required. External factors such as smoking, osteoporosis, certain medications, and heavy activity can prolong or even prevent the fusion process. If fusion does not occur, patients may require reoperation.

One known fusion cage is described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,904,261 and includes a horseshoe shaped body. This type cage is currently available in PEEK (polyetheretherketone). PEEK is used because it does not distort MRI and CT images of the vertebrae. However, PEEK is a material that does not allow bone to attach. Thus, fusion with a PEEK cage requires bridging bone to grow through the holes in the cage to provide stabilization.

It would be desirable to achieve immobilization of the vertebrae and maintain spacing between the adjacent vertebrae without the associated patient discomfort and long recovery time of traditional interbody fusion which may require immobilization for several months.

Another problem associated with the typical fusion procedure is the subsidence of the cage into the vertebral body. The typical fusion cage is formed with a large percentage of open space to allow the bone to grow through and form the bridging bone which immobilizes the discs. However, the large amount of open space means that the load on each segment of the cage is significantly higher than if the cage surface area was larger. This results in the cage subsiding or sinking into the bone over time causing the disc space to collapse. In addition, the hard cortical bone on the outer surface of the vertebral body that transfers load to the interbody cage or spacer is often scraped, punctured or otherwise damaged to provide blood to the interbody bone graft to facilitate bone growth. This damage to the bone used to promote bone growth can also lead to subsidence.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of a genetically engineered protein, or rhBMP-2, for certain types of spine fusion surgery. RhBMP-2 is a genetically engineered version of a naturally occurring protein that helps to stimulate bone growth, marketed by Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc. as InFUSE™ Bone Graft. When InFUSE™ is used with the bone graft material it eliminates the need for painful bone graft harvesting and improves patients' recovery time. However, InFUSE™ adds significantly to the cost of a typical fusion surgery. Additionally, even with the bone graft and InFUSE™ bone may fail to grow completely between the two vertebrae or the cage may subside into the vertebrae such that the fusion fails to achieve its purpose of maintaining disc height and preventing motion.

In an attempt to treat disc related pain without fusion and to maintain motion, an alternative approach has been developed, in which a movable, implantable, artificial intervertebral disc (or “disc prosthesis”) is inserted between two vertebrae. A number of different artificial intervertebral discs are currently being developed. For example, U.S. Patent Application Publication Nos. 2005/0021146, 2005/0021145, and 2006/0025862, which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety, describe artificial intervertebral discs. Other examples of intervertebral disc prostheses are the LINK SB CHARITLÉ™ disc prosthesis (provided by DePuy Spine, Inc.) the MOBIDISK™ disc prosthesis (provided by LDR Medical), the BRYAN™ cervical disc prosthesis (provided by Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc.), the PRODISC™ disc prosthesis or PRODISC-C™ disc prosthesis (from Synthes Stratec, Inc.), the PCM™ disc prosthesis (provided by Cervitech, Inc.), and the MAVERICK™ disc prosthesis (provided by Medtronic Sofomor Danek). Although existing disc prostheses provide advantages over traditional treatment methods, many patients are not candidates for an artificial disc due to facet degeneration, instability, poor bone strength, previous surgery, multi-level disease, and pain sources that are non-discogenic.

Therefore, a need exists for an improved spacer and method for spanning a space and maintaining disc spacing between two vertebrae after removal of an intervertebral disc. Ideally, such improved method and spacer would avoid the need for growth of bridging bone across the intervertebral space.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments of the present invention provide a rigid intervertebral spacer and methods of spanning a space formed upon removal of an intervertebral disc.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, a method of spanning a space formed by upon removal of an intervertebral disc includes the steps of performing a discectomy to remove disc material between two adjacent vertebral bodies; placing an intervertebral spacer between the two adjacent vertebral bodies; and maintaining the disc space between the two adjacent vertebral bodies with the intervertebral spacer without the use of bone graft or bridging bone. The spacer includes two end plates, each end plate having a metallic vertebral body contacting surface and an inner surface, and a connector interconnecting the inner surfaces of the two end plates in a rigid manner which limits motion between the plates to less than a total of 5 degrees. The vertebral body contacting surfaces of the end plates have no holes therein or have holes which cover less than 40 percent of the vertebral body contacting surface.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, an intervertebral spacer for spanning a space formed by upon removal of an intervertebral disc includes two end plates sized and shaped to fit within an intervertebral space and a connector interconnecting the inner surfaces of the two end plates in a rigid manner which limits motion between the plates to less than a total of 5 degrees. Each end plate has a metallic vertebral contacting surface and an inner surface and the vertebral body contacting surfaces of the end plates have no holes therein or have holes which cover less than 40 percent of the vertebral body contacting surfaces.

In accordance with a further aspect of the invention, a method of performing an anterior/posterior fusion comprises performing a discectomy to remove disc material between two adjacent vertebral bodies; placing an intervertebral spacer between the two adjacent discs; maintaining the disc space between the two adjacent discs with the intervertebral spacer; and posteriorly placing a stabilization system to fix the angle between the vertebral bodies. The spacer includes two end plates each having a metallic vertebral contacting surface and an inner surface, and a rigid connector interconnecting the inner surfaces of the two end plates. The vertebral body contacting surfaces of the end plates have no holes therein or have holes which cover less than 40 percent of the vertebral body contacting surfaces.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, a fusion system includes an intervertebral spacer and a posteriorly placed stabilization system including at least two screws configured to be placed into the vertebral bodies and at least one connector there between, The intervertebral spacer includes two end plates sized and shaped to fit within an intervertebral space, each end plate having a vertebral contacting surface an inner surface and a rigid connector interconnecting the inner surfaces of the two end plates. The vertebral body contacting surfaces of the end plates have no holes therein or have holes which cover less than 40 percent of the vertebral body contacting surfaces.

In accordance with an additional aspect of the invention, a fusion spacer includes a rigid spacer body sized and shaped to fit within an intervertebral space between two vertebral bodies, the body having two opposed metallic vertebral contacting surfaces; at least one fin extending from each of the vertebral contacting surfaces, the fins configured to be positioned within slots cut into the two vertebral bodies; and a plurality of serrations on the vertebral contacting surfaces. Holes, if present, cover less than 40 percent of the entire vertebral body contacting surfaces.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an intervertebral spacer according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a cross sectional side view of the intervertebral spacer of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a top view of the intervertebral spacer of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a bottom view of the intervertebral spacer of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an intervertebral spacer according to another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an intervertebral spacer according to an embodiment with added screw fixation; and

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a further intervertebral spacer with added screw fixation.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Various embodiments of the present invention generally provide for an intervertebral spacer having upper and lower plates connected by a central connector which is substantially rigid. The intervertebral spacer according to the present invention can maintain disc height and prevent subsidence with a large vertebral body contacting surface area while substantially reducing recovery time by eliminating the need for bridging bone. The fusion spacer described herein is designed particularly for patients who are not candidates for total disc replacement.

One example of an intervertebral spacer 10 for maintaining disc height between two adjacent vertebral discs is shown in FIG. 1. The spacer includes two end plates 20, 22, each end plate having a vertebral contacting surface 24 and an inner surface 26, and a connector 30 interconnecting the inner surfaces of the two end plates in a substantially rigid manner. The intervertebral spacer 10 when implanted between two vertebral discs maintains a desirable disc space between the two adjacent discs similar to that provided by a natural disc and eliminates the long recovery time required to grow bridging bone which is required in the traditional fusion surgery.

Although the connector 30 has been shown as circular in cross section, other shapes may be used including oval, elliptical, or rectangular. Although the connector has been shown as a solid member connecting the plates 20, 22 in the center of the plates one or more connectors may be provided in other configurations and at other locations. By way of example, a connector may be the same or substantially the same diameter and shape as the plate, as in FIGS. 6 and 7. Alternatively, multiple connectors can be arranged in a pattern, such as a rectangular pattern, or a hollow cylindrical connector can be used.

In some embodiments, the outer surface 24 is planar. Oftentimes, the outer surface 24 will include one or more surface features and/or materials to enhance attachment of the spacer 10 to vertebral bone. For example, as shown in FIG. 2, the outer surface 24 may be machined to have serrations 40 or other surface features for promoting adhesion of the plates 20, 22 to a vertebra. In the embodiments shown, the serrations 40 are pyramid shaped serrations extending in mutually orthogonal directions and arranged on opposite sides of a fin 50. The serrations 40 may also be disposed in a region between fins 52 when the outer surface 24 has two fins. Other geometries such as teeth, grooves, ridges, pins, barbs or the like would also be useful in increasing fixation of the spacer 10 to the adjacent vertebral bodies. When the bone integration structures are ridges, teeth, barbs or similar structures, they may be angled to ease insertion and prevent migration. These bone integration structures can be used to precisely cut the bone during implantation to cause bleeding bone and encourage bone integration. Additionally, the outer surface 24 may be provided with a rough microfinish formed by blasting with aluminum oxide microparticles or the like to improve bone integration. In some embodiments, the outer surface may also be titanium plasma sprayed or HA coated to further enhance attachment of the outer surface 24 to vertebral bone.

The outer surface 24 may also carry one or more upstanding fins 50, 52 extending in an anterior-posterior direction. The fins 50, 52 are configured to be placed in slots cut into the vertebral bodies. Preferably, the fins 50, 52 each have a height greater than a width and have a length greater than the height. In one embodiment, the fins 50, 52 are pierced by transverse holes 54 for bone ingrowth. The transverse holes 54 may be formed in any shape and may extend partially or all the way through the fins 50, 52. In alternative embodiments, the fins 50, 52 may be rotated away from the anterior-posterior axis, such as in a lateral-lateral orientation, a posterolateral-anterolateral orientation, or the like to accommodate alternate implantation approaches.

The fins 50, 52 provide improved attachment to the bone and prevent rotation of the plates 20, 22 in the bone. In some embodiments, the fins 50, 52 may extend from the surface 24 at an angle other than 90°. For example on one or more of the plates 20, 22 where multiple fins 52 are attached to the surface 24 the fins may be canted away from one another with the bases slightly closer together than their edges at an angle such as about 80-88 degrees. The fins 50, 52 may have any other suitable configuration including various numbers, angles and curvatures, in various embodiments. In some embodiments, the fins 50, 52 may be omitted altogether. The embodiment of FIG. 1 illustrates a combination of a first plate 20 with a single fin 50 and a second plate 22 with a double fin 52. This arrangement is useful for double level disc replacements and utilizes offset slots in the vertebral body to prevent the rare occurrence of vertebral body splitting by avoiding cuts to the vertebral body in the same plane for multi-level implants.

The spacer 10 has been shown with the fins 50, 52 as the primary fixation feature, however, the fins may also be augmented or replaced with one or more screws extending through the plates and into the bone. For example in the spacer 10 of FIG. 1 the upper fin 50 may be replaced with a screw while the two lower fins 52 remain. The plates 20, 22 can be provided with one or a series of holes to allow screws to be inserted at different locations at the option of the surgeon. However, the holes should not be of such size or number that the coverage of the plate 20, 22 is decreased to such an extent that subsidence occurs. When one or more screws are provided, they may incorporate a locking feature to prevent the screws from backing out. The screws may also be provided with a bone integration coating.

The upper and lower plates 20, 22 and connector 30 may be constructed from any suitable metal, alloy or combination of metals or alloys, such as but not limited to cobalt chrome alloys, titanium (such as grade 5 titanium), titanium based alloys, tantalum, nickel titanium alloys, stainless steel, and/or the like. They may also be formed of ceramics, biologically compatible polymers including PEEK, UHMWPE (ultra high molecular weight polyethlyne) or fiber reinforced polymers. However, the vertebral contacting surfaces 24 are formed of a metal or other material with good bone integration properties. The metallic vertebral body contacting surfaces 24 may be coated or otherwise covered with the metal for fixation. The plates 20, 22 and the connector 20 may be formed of a one piece construction or may be formed of more than one piece, such as different materials coupled together. When the spacer 10 is formed of multiple materials these materials are fixed together to form a unitary one piece spacer structure without separately moving parts.

Different materials may be used for different parts of the spacer 10 to optimize imaging characteristics. For example, the plates may be formed of titanium while the connector is formed of cobalt chromium alloy for improved imaging of the plates. Cobalt chrome molybdenum alloys when used for the plates 20, 22 may be treated with aluminum oxide blasting followed by a titanium plasma spray to improve bone integration. Other materials and coatings can also be used such as titanium coated with titanium nitride, aluminum oxide blasting, HA (hydroxylapatite) coating, micro HA coating, and/or bone integration promoting coatings. Any other suitable metals or combinations of metals may be used as well as ceramic or polymer materials, and combinations thereof. Any suitable technique may be used to couple materials together, such as snap fitting, slip fitting, lamination, interference fitting, use of adhesives, welding and/or the like.

As shown in FIG. 5, some limited holes 60 may also be provided in the plates 20, 22 to allow bone in growth. Holes provided in a typical fusion spacer provide a spacer with little structural support and maximum area for bone growth. Thus, the load transferred across the disc space per unit area of spacer is quite high resulting in possible subsidence of the typical spacer. In the spacer 10 of the present invention, the load transfer is spread across a larger area. If the outer surfaces 24 have holes 60 therein, the holes will cover less than 40 percent of the outer surface 24 which contacts the bone to prevent subsidence of the plates into the vertebral bodies. Preferably the holes will cover less than 25 percent, and more preferably less than 10 percent of the outer bone contacting surfaces. At the option of the surgeon, when the small holes 60 are present in the plates 20, 22, bone graft can be placed in the space between the inner surfaces 26 of the plates to encourage bone to grow through the plates. The holes 60, when present can take on a variety of shapes including circular, as shown, rectangular, polygonal or other irregular shapes. The holes 60 may extend through the various parts of the spacer including through the connector or through the fins. The holes 60 may change shape or size as they pass through portions of the spacer, for example, holes through the plates and the connector may taper to a smaller interior diameter.

The typical fusion spacer requires bleeding bone to stimulate the growth of bridging bone. In this typical method, the cortical endplates are damaged purposefully to obtain bleeding by rasping or cutting the bone. This damage weakens the bone and can cause subsidence of the spacer. The spacer 10 described herein does not rely on bridging bone and does not require damaging the bone to cause bleeding. The spacer 10 can be implanted after simply cleaning the disc space and cutting slots into the vertebral endplates configured to receive the fins 50, 52. The rest of the endplates remain undamaged, providing better support and disc height maintenance.

FIG. 6 shows another embodiment of a spacer 100 having a single fin 50 on the top and bottom and two fixation screws 70 extending at an angle of about 30 to about 60 degrees with respect to the vertebral body contacting surfaces 24 of the spacer. The spacer 100 also includes a connector 30 between the vertebral body contacting surfaces 24 which is formed in one piece with the upper and lower plates. The fixation screws 70 can include a locking mechanism, such as a locking thread or a separate locking member which is inserted into the screw holes 80 after the screws are inserted to prevent backing out of the screws.

FIG. 7 illustrates an alternative embodiment of a spacer 110 having a single superior fin 50, two inferior fins 52, and three alternating holes 80 for receiving bone screws (not shown). The spacer 110 has multiple fixation structures to provide the patient near immediate mobility after the fusion procedure. As an alternative to the alternating angled holes 80, the spacer 110 can be formed with an anterior flange extending from the top and the bottom at the anterior side of the plate. This optional flange can include one or more holes for receiving bone screws placed laterally. The laterally placed bone screws can prevent interference in the event of multilevel fusions and are particularly useful for a cervical fusion where space is more limited.

The intervertebral spacer 10 shown herein is configured for placement in a lumbar intervertebral space from an anterior approach. It should be understood that all approaches can be used including PLIF (posterior lumbar interbody fusion), TLIF (transverse lumbar interbody fusion), XLIF (Lateral extracavitary interbody fusion), ALIF (anterior lumbar interbody fusion), trans-sacral, and other approaches. The shape of the intervertebral spacer would be modified depending on the approach. For example, for a posterior approach, the spacer may include two separate smaller spacers which are either positioned separately side-by-side in the intervertebral space or two spacers which are joined together once inside the intervertebral space. For a lateral approach, the intervertebral spacer may be formed in a more elongated, kidney bean or banana shape with a transversely oriented fin.

The spacers 10, 100 can be provided in different sizes, with different plate sizes, angles between plates, lordosis angles, and heights for different patients or applications. The spacers 10, 100 are primarily designed for use in the lumbar spine, however the spacers may also be used for fusions of the cervical spine. In one variation, the height of the spacer can be adjustable, such as by rotating an adjustment screw in the connector 30 before or after implantation. The spacers preferably are sized to provide substantial coverage of the vertebral surfaces. For example in an anterior procedure, the plates are sized to cover at least 50 percent of the vertebral surface, and preferably cover at least 70 percent of the vertebral surface. In posterior or lateral procedures the coverage of the vertebral surface may be somewhat smaller due to the small size of the access area, i.e. the posterior or lateral spacers may cover about 40 percent or more of the vertebral surface with a one or two part spacer, and preferably at least 50 percent of the vertebral surface.

The size of the intervertebral spacers 10, 100, 110 can also be described in terms of the amount of the volume of the intervertebral space occupied by the spacer. According to a preferred embodiment, the total volume of the intervertebral spacer selected for a particular intervertebral space fills at least 50 percent of the volume of the space available between the adjacent vertebrae. More preferably, the volume of the spacer is at least 70 percent of the volume of the intervertebral space. The volume of the intervertebral space is defined as the volume of the space between the vertebrae when the vertebrae are distracted to a normal physiologic position for the particular patient without over or under distracting. The size of the intervertebral spacers 10, 100, 110 can also be determined by the amount of the support provided to the ring of cortical bone surrounding each vertebrae. The cortical bone surrounds a more spongy cancellous. Preferably, the intervertebral spacer is selected to support at least 75 percent of the diameter of the ring of cortical bone.

One common fusion procedure, referred to as an anterior/posterior fusion, uses of one or more fusion cages to maintain the disc space while bridging bone grows and also uses a system of posterior screws and rods for further stabilization. Fusing both the front and back provides a high degree of stability for the spine and a large surface area for the bone fusion to occur. Also, approaching both sides of the spine often allows for a more aggressive reduction of motion for patients who have deformity in the lower back (e.g. isthmic spondylolisthesis).

According to a method of the present invention, the anterior approach is performed first by removing the disc material and cutting the anterior longitudinal ligament (which lays on the front of the disc space). The spacer is positioned anteriorly and then the patient is turned over for the implantation of a posterior stabilization system. The intervertebral spacers of the present invention may be used in combination with a posterior stabilization system, dynamic rod stabilization system, or interspinous spacer to achieve the anterior/posterior fusion.

In another example, a posterior intervertebral spacer formed in two parts can be used with a posterior stabilization system including screws and rods. This system provides the advantage of maintenance of disc height and stabilization with an entirely posterior approach.

While the exemplary embodiments have been described in some detail, by way of example and for clarity of understanding, those of skill in the art will recognize that a variety of modifications, adaptations, and changes may be employed. Hence, the scope of the present invention should be limited solely by the appended claims.