3D printing custom bioactive and absorbable surgical screws, pins, and bone plates for localized drug delivery

Karthik Tappa, Udayabhanu Jammalamadaka, Jeffery A. Weisman, David H. Ballard, Dallas D. Wolford, Cecilia Pascual-Garrido, Larry M. Wolford, Pamela K. Woodard, David K. Mills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Additive manufacturing has great potential for personalized medicine in osseous fixation surgery, including maxillofacial and orthopedic applications. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate 3D printing methods for the fabrication of patient-specific fixation implants that allow for localized drug delivery. 3D printing was used to fabricate gentamicin (GS) and methotrexate (MTX)-loaded fixation devices, including screws, pins, and bone plates. Scaffolds with different infill ratios of polylactic acid (PLA), both without drugs and impregnated with GS and MTX, were printed into cylindrical and rectangular-shaped constructs for compressive and flexural strength mechanical testing, respectively. Bland PLA constructs showed significantly higher flexural strength when printed in a Y axis at 100% infill compared to other axes and infill ratios; however, there was no significant difference in flexural strength between other axes and infill ratios. GS and MTX-impregnated constructs had significantly lower flexural and compressive strength as compared to the bland PLA constructs. GS-impregnated implants demonstrated bacterial inhibition in plate cultures. Similarly, MTX-impregnated implants demonstrated a cytotoxic effect in osteosarcoma assays. This proof of concept work shows the potential of developing 3D printed screws and plating materials with the requisite mechanical properties and orientations. Drug-impregnated implants were technically successful and had an anti-bacterial and chemotherapeutic effect, but drug addition significantly decreased the flexural and compressive strengths of the custom implants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalJournal of Functional Biomaterials
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019


  • 3D printing
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Antibiotics
  • Biodegradable
  • Chemotherapeutics
  • Drug delivery implants
  • Orthopedic fixation devices
  • Polylactic acid (PLA)


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