Smoking is detrimental to obtaining a solid spinal fusion mass with previous studies demonstrating its association with pseudoarthrosis in patients undergoing spinal fusion. Varenicline is a pharmacologic adjunct used in smoking cessation which acts as a partial agonist of the same nicotinic receptors activated during tobacco use. However, no clinical or basic science studies to date have characterized if varenicline has negative effects on spinal fusion and bone healing by itself.Our study aim was to elucidate whether varenicline affects the frequency or quality of posterolateral spinal fusion in a rodent model at an endpoint of 12 weeks.Randomized control trial PATIENT SAMPLE: 14 male Lewis rats randomly separated into two experimental groups OUTCOME MEASURES: Manual palpation of fusion segment, radiography, µCT imaging, 4-point bend.Fourteen male Lewis rats were randomly separated into two experimental groups undergoing L4-5 posterior spinal fusion procedure followed by daily subcutaneous injections of human dose varenicline or saline (control) for 12 weeks post-surgery. Spine samples were explanted, and fusion was determined via manual palpation of segments by two independent observers. High-resolution radiographs were obtained to evaluate bridging fusion mass. µCT imaging was performed to characterize fusion mass and consolidation. Lumbar spinal fusion units were tested in 4-point bending to evaluate stiffness and peak load. Study funding sources include $5000 OREF Grant. There were no applicable financial relationships or conflicts of interest.At three months post-surgery, 12 out of 14 rats demonstrated lumbar spine fusion (86% fused) with no difference in fusion frequency between the varenicline and control groups as detected by manual palpation. High resolution radiography revealed six out of seven rats (86%) having complete fusion in both groups. µCT showed no significant difference in bone mineral density or bone fraction volume between groups in the region of interest. Biomechanical testing demonstrated no significant different in the average stiffness or peak loads at the fusion site of the varenicline and control groups.Based on the results of our rat study, there is no indication that varenicline itself has a detrimental effect on the frequency and quality of spinal fusion.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.spinee.2019.07.015
View details for PubMedID 31377475