Healthcare Innovation: Award-Winning Metallic And Bioabsorbale Implants

A Magnezix pin used during surgery.
A Magnezix pin used during surgery.

Innovation in healthcare is becoming a major global focus. Healthcare organisations face unprecedented challenges to improve quality and access, increase efficiency, eliminate waste and reduce harm and infection – while containing costs.

An international German-based company, Syntellix AG, has stepped up to the innovation plate by developing MAGNEZIX®, the first globally approved, orthopaedic magnesium implants in the world.

The bioabsorbable metal implant is based on magnesium which dissolves completely in the bone. The implants have the added advantage of antibacterial properties that helps to prevent infections.

Tens of thousands of MAGNEZIX® implants have been used by a growing number of leading orthopaedic surgeons, sports physicians and paediatric surgeons worldwide.

The result of the company’s specialisation in R&D, and distribution of highly innovative transformable metallic implants, is revolutionising an expanding range of orthopaedic surgery including trauma and paediatrics, with a promising future to enter additional markets such as neuro and dental surgery. 

How MAGNEZIX works

This novel and ground breaking implant material combines the advantages of the stability of conventional implants (such as titanium/steel) and the degradation of resorbable implants (polymers) – creating a transformative implant. Based on the metal magnesium (Mg), which is essential for various key body functions (including bone formation), the implants break down in the bone, offering an ideal combination of metallic stability, near-bone elasticity and bioabsorbability.

The mechanical properties of Mg (high stability and elasticity) are very close to those of human bone, making it the ideal material for these stable yet reabsorbable implants.

‘It has been a long road to the final product and years have been spent in extensive research and development before the right compound material was earmarked and the corresponding advanced production processes were developed,’ explained Professor Claassen, CEO of Syntellix AG.

The advantages

  • Syntellix offers patients a faster, more cost-effective and safer recovery process through its bioabsorbable metallic magnesium implant
  • The nature of the cutting-edge material eliminates the need for patients to endure a second surgery for metal removal
  • This results in less pain, less risk of infection and less healing time – this is fast-tracked as magnesium verifiably stimulates bone growth (it has an excellent biocompatibility) and improves patients psychological well-beings, outclassing titanium and steel implants
  • MAGNEZIX® implants have found particular success for hallux valgus, hammer and claw toe surgery because they are highly stable, resorbed into the endogenous bone tissue and elastic enough to prevent the ‘Stress Shielding Effect’
  • The high magnesium content stimulates bone formation, has antibacterial properties that help to prevent infections in the bone and promotes healing

Leading orthopaedists, sports physicians and paediatric surgeons around the globe rate these implants as being advantageous or clinically superior to conventional titanium implants.

The specialist behind the innovation

The person behind the innovation is Professor Utz Claassen. In May this year, he won the German Innovation Award for the magnesium implants – adding to a list of innovation accolades. He says, ‘We are convinced that our magnesium technology has the potential to replace conventional titanium, steel or polymer implants in the long term. But we still face a challenge before patients all over the world can benefit from it. We are in an uncompromising pursuit to make these implants availabe to patients around the globe’

The bioabsorbable implants are particularly effective in public healthcare systems as it spares the cost of a second procedure to an already overburdened healthcare system. The implants are currently being used in six South African Government Hospitals:

  • Livingstone Hospital – Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape)
  • Frere Hospital  – East London (Eastern Cape)
  • Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital – Johannesburg (Gauteng)
  • Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital – Johannesburg (Gauteng)
  • Dr George Mukhari Hospital (Ga Ranukwa – Pretoria (Gauteng)
  • King Edward VIII Hospital – Durban (Kwa-Zulu Natal)

The implants combine the advantages of both solid (such as titanium/steel) and resorbable implants (polymers) – without their respective disadvantages.

While conventional implants provide the proper stability needed for bone healing, they often cause stress-shielding which could leave the bone prone to a refracture later in life. Also, in many cases a second surgery is needed to remove the metal implant which puts the patient at risk for hospital infections, risk of anaesthesia complications, as well as the additional costs associated with another operation.

Existing resorbable but fragile polymer materials (based on PGA – polyglycolic acid or PLA – polylactic acid) are also outperformed by the significantly higher stability of MAGNEZIX®.  Polymers lack the stability and when they are dissolved they usually leave a hole which means the bone is not as strong as it was before the fracture.

The broad use of the absorbable magnesium reduces unnecessary interventions and sick leave, relieves healthcare providers and offers cost bearers in the healthcare system savings potential – while simultaneously enhancing the quality of treatment. Likewise, surgeons who use this product save resources and time, while helping their patients achieve maximum restorative results.

MAGNEZIX® implants are applicable in a variety of indications in orthopaedic and trauma surgery. Basically, fractures and non-unions of small bones and small bone arthrodesis, including, but not limited to, scaphoid fractures, avulsion fractures, medial and lateral malleolar fractures, intra-articular fractures of the tarsals, metatarsals, carpals and metacarpals, bunionectomy and osteotomies around the foot and ankle, arthrodesis of small joints (e.g. phalanges); fractures of patella, ulna and radial styloid fractures, radial head fractures, distal humerus intraarticular fractures. In current publications on various clinical applications, doctors rate MAGNEZIX® implants as being advantageous or clinically superior to conventional titanium implants.

The kudos

  • Numerous important awards and prizes by experts and patients underline the innovativity of MAGNEZIX®. In Germany, these include:
    • The 2019 German Innovation Award in Gold; internationally, the implants were a winner in the Product of the Year category of the Sustainability Award 2018 program.
    • The German Medical Award 2017, the STEP Award 2017 and the Innovator of the Year 2017 award
    • The Future Award 2016 of the German Healthcare Economy

The Innovation Award of the German Economy 2012/13