Laser-structured spike surface shows great bone integrative properties despite infection in vivo
Implant associated infections can result in devastating consequences for patients. One major cause is the formation of bacterial biofilms, which result in increased resistance against antimicrobial therapeutics. A reduction of implant associated infections can be achieved by functionalization of implant surfaces. The generation of three dimensional surface structures by femtosecond laser ablation is one method to fabricate bacterial repellent large scaled surfaces without altering the material chemical composition. The challenge is to reduce bacterial growth while improving cellular ongrowth. For this purpose, spike structures were created as small as possible by used fabrication method on cubic Ti90/Al6/V4-rods and their effectiveness against bacterial colonization was compared to unstructured Ti90/Al6/V4-rods. Rods were implanted in the rat tibia and infected intraoperatively with 103 CFU of Staphylococcus aureus. Besides clinical behaviour and lameness, the vital bacterial biomass, morphological appearance and the volume of eukaryotic cells were determined on the implant surface after 21 days. Bone alterations were examined by radiological and histological techniques. Unexpectedly, the laser-structured implants did not show a lower bacterial load on the implant surface and less severe infection related bone and tissue alterations compared to the group without structuring. Simultaneously, a better bony integration and a higher cellular colonization with eukaryotic cells was detected on the laser-structured implants. These findings don't support the previous in vitro results. Nevertheless, the strong integration into the bone is a powerful argument for further surface modifications focussing on the improvement of the antibacterial effect. Additionally, our results underline the need for in vivo testing of new materials prior to clinical use.