Anti-infective and osteointegration properties of silicon nitride, poly(ether ether ketone), and titanium implants

T. J. Webster, A. A. Patel, M. N. Rahaman, B. Sonny Bal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


Silicon nitride (Si3N4) is an industrial ceramic used in spinal fusion and maxillofacial reconstruction. Maximizing bone formation and minimizing bacterial infection are desirable attributes in orthopedic implants designed to adhere to living bone. This study has compared these attributes of Si3N4 implants with implants made from two other orthopedic biomaterials, i.e. poly(ether ether ketone) (PEEK) and titanium (Ti). Dense implants made of Si3N4, PEEK, or Ti were surgically implanted into matching rat calvarial defects. Bacterial infection was induced with an injection of 1 × 104 Staphylococcus epidermidis. Control animals received saline only. On 3, 7, and 14 days, and 3 months post-surgery four rats per time period and material were killed, and calvariae were examined to quantify new bone formation and the presence or absence of bacteria. Quantitative evaluation of osteointegration to adjacent bone was done by measuring the resistance to implant push-out (n = 8 rats each for Ti and PEEK, and n = 16 rats for Si3N4). Three months after surgery in the absence of bacterial injection new bone formation around Si3N4 was ∼69%, compared with 24% and 36% for PEEK and Ti, respectively. In the presence of bacteria new bone formation for Si 3N4, Ti, and PEEK was 41%, 26%, and 21%, respectively. Live bacteria were identified around PEEK (88%) and Ti (21%) implants, whereas none were present adjacent to Si3N4. Push-out strength testing demonstrated statistically superior bone growth onto Si 3N4 compared with Ti and PEEK. Si3N4 bioceramic implants demonstrated superior new bone formation and resistance to bacterial infection compared with Ti and PEEK.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4447-4454
Number of pages8
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Orthopedic implants
  • Poly(ether ether ketone)
  • Silicon nitride
  • Titanium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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