Joshua L. Burnard, William C. H. Parr, Wen Jie Choy, William R. Walsh, Ralph J. Mobbs

June 2020, Volume 29, Issue 6, pp 1248 - 1260 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-019-06236-2

First Online: 03 December 2019


Three-dimensional printing (3DP), or additive manufacturing, is an emergent fabrication technology for surgical devices. As a production method, 3DP enables physical realisation of surgical implants from geometrically complex digital-models in computer-aided design. Spine surgery has been an innovative adopter of 3DP technology for both patient-specific (PS) and market-available ‘Off-The-Shelf’ (OTS) implants. The present study assessed clinical evidence for efficacy and safety of both PS and OTS 3DP spinal implants through review of the published literature. The aim was to evaluate the clinical utility of 3DP devices for spinal surgery.


A systematic literature review of peer-reviewed papers featured on online medical databases evidencing the application of 3DP (PS and OTS) surgical spine implants was conducted in accordance with PRISMA guidelines.


Twenty-two peer-reviewed articles and one book-chapter were eligible for systematic review. The published literature was limited to case reports and case series, with a predominant focus on PS designs fabricated from titanium alloys for surgical reconstruction in cases where neoplasia, infection, trauma or degenerative processes of the spine have precipitated significant anatomical complexity.


PS and 3DP OTS surgical implants have demonstrated considerable utility for the surgical management of complex spine pathology. The reviewed literature indicated that 3DP spinal implants have also been used safely, with positive surgeon- and patient-reported outcomes. However, these conclusions are tentative as the follow-up periods are still relatively short and the number of high-powered studies was limited. Single case and small case series reporting would benefit greatly from more standardised reporting of clinical, radiographic and biomechanical outcomes.

Graphic abstract

These slides can be retrieved under Electronic Supplementary Material.[graphic not available: see fulltext]

Read Full Article