Biocompatibility Issues with Modern Implants in Bone - A Review for Clinical Orthopedics

Katja M.R Nuss, Brigitte von Rechenberg*
Musculoskeletal Research Unit, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Vetsuisse Faculty, Equine Hospital, Winterthurerstrasse 250, Ch-8050 Zurich, Switzerland

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© Nuss and von Rechenberg; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestrictive use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the The Musculoskeletal Research Unit (MSRU), Equine Department, Vetsuisse Faculty ZH, University of Zürich, Winterthurerstr. 260, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland; Tel: +41-44-635 8410; Fax: +41-44-635 8917; E-mail:


Skeletal defects may result from traumatic, infectious, congenital or neoplastic processes and are considered to be a challenge for reconstructive surgery. Although the autologous bone graft is still the “gold standard”, there is continuing demand for bone substitutes because of associated disadvantages, such as limited supply and potential donor side morbidity [1]. This is not only true for indications in orthopedic and craniomaxillofacial surgeries, but also in repairing endodontic defects and in dental implantology.

Before clinical use all new bone substitute materials have to be validated for their osseoconductive and - depending on the composition of the material also –inductive ability, as well as for their long-term biocompatibility in bone. Serving this purpose various bone healing models to test osteocompatibility and inflammatory potential of a novel material on one hand and, on the other hand, non-healing osseous defects to assess the healing potential of a bone substitute material have been developed. Sometimes the use of more than one implantation site can be helpful to provide a wide range of information about a new material [2].

Important markers for biocompatibility and inflammatory responses are the cell types appearing after the implantation of foreign material. There, especially the role of foreign body giant cells (FBGC) is discussed controversial in the pertinent literature, such that it is not clear whether their presence marks an incompatibility of the biomaterial, or whether it belongs to a normal degradation behavior of modern, resorbable biomaterials.

This publication is highlighting the different views currently existing about the function of FBGC that appear in response to biomaterials at the implantation sites. A short overview of the general classes of biomaterials, where FBGC may appear as cellular response, is added for clarity, but may not be complete.