Medtronic spinal implant proves worth at 7 years

The Prestige cervical disc implant performed well in a 7-year study.--Courtesy of Medtronic

Medtronic ($MDT) is touting stellar 7-year postmarketing patient results for one of its key artificial disc implants designed to treat degenerative spinal conditions. Researchers presented the data at a major conference--a shot of good news for the Minnesota company's struggling spinal division.

At 7 years, patients with Medtronic's Prestige cervical disc replacement experienced less pain, more mobility and fewer additional surgeries compared to patients treated with spinal fusion procedures.

Researchers looked at 541 patients initially, and 395 patients from that number participated in the 7-year follow-up study. Out of the 395, 212 had the Prestige disc and the rest were spinal fusion patients. Prestige patients experienced less neck pain, faced far fewer surgeries and their overall health remained better. One patient's implant had a loose screw at 7 years, but the rest of the stainless steel implants still performed well, the company said during its Dec. 5 presentation at the Cervical Spine Research Society Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.

For medical device companies, postmarketing studies can be even more significant than the initial FDA approval or clearance, considering long-term use data isn't possible in the scope of initial clinical studies. The Prestige results thus offer a marketing tool to show the product's endurance, especially in the face of competition from smaller, nimble rivals including LDR and AxioMed Spine.

Medtronic's latest study also offers a shot in the arm for its spinal division, whose revenue dipped 5% during the recent 2014 fiscal second quarter to $746 million. The division continues to be dragged down in part by plunging revenue from sales of Medtronic's Infuse bone growth product, which has been beset by legal and safety problems.

- read the release