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Osseointegration is a phenomenon in which implanted material integrates with living bone, firmly anchoring the implant in place. This occurrence was first observed in the early 20th century, and doctors realized the implications of osseointegration very quickly. Only certain materials can undergo osseointegration, with titanium being one of the most popular choices for procedures in which osseointegration is the goal. With other materials, the tissue will fail to grow into and around the implant, and it will not anchor.
In this process, the implant is carefully placed in the bone during surgery by an orthopedic surgeon who has fitted the implant to the patient, considering the patient's needs and reviewing x-rays to confirm size and placement of the implant. Over the course of several months, the bone starts to grow into the implant, anchoring the implant in place. Once the implant is installed and the bone has started growing into it, it will be impossible to remove without damaging the bone, and it will be capable of bearing weight.
One of the obvious uses for osseointegration is in the installation of dental implants. The implant can be osseointegrated into the jaw, allowing a dentist to fit a tooth onto the implant. Cosmetic dentistry and reconstructive dentistry can both take advantage of this implant technique. The procedure can also be used to create anchors for prosthetics such as prosthetic limbs, noses, and ears. Prosthetics can be attached more stably and safely with osseointegrated anchors, improving comfort and functionality for the patient.
For prosthetic limbs such as arms and legs, osseointegration has immense potential. One of the biggest problems with attaching prosthetics is finding techniques which will seat an implant firmly on the body without causing pain or limiting freedom of movement. Improper attachments can also render a prosthetic limb largely useless because it cannot bear weight. With osseointegrated prosthetics, these issues can be addressed. It usually takes around six months for the implant to successfully anchor in the bone, at which point fitting for a prosthesis can begin.
Rods used to repair severely broken bones can also be osseointegrated. In these procedures, the rod stabilizes the bone while it heals, and also adds support and structure to protect the bone from being broken again in the future. The progress of healing can be judged by taking x-rays and medical imaging studies of the site to confirm that the bone is growing into the implant and that the bone is growing evenly.