Operative sports medicine increasingly turns to orthopaedic biomaterials

London 07 January 2003A spurt in sports-related injuries across all ages, the multiple benefits offered by absorbable products, as well as the rising preference for bone graft substitutes over allografts will underline the rapid growth of the orthopaedic biomaterials segment of the absorbable and erodible biomaterials market. According to latest research by growth consultants at Frost & Sullivan, total market revenues will be further augmented by the relatively sedate expansion of the wound closure biomaterials segment.


The total European absorbable and erodible biomaterials market was valued at USD 539,3 million in 2002 and is projected to increase to USD 794,1 million in 2009. Of this, the wound closure segment is estimated to grow from USD 436,4 million in 2002 to USD 522,3 million by 2009. The orthopaedic biomaterials segment is forecast to enjoy double-digit growth rates, increasing revenue generation from USD 102,9 million in 2002 to USD 271,8 million by 2009.

With participation in sports activities on the rise amongst all age groups, there has been an accompanying surge in the number, frequency, and variety of soft tissue sports-related injuries. Consequently, there has been a co-related rise in demand for absorbable and erodible orthopaedic biomaterials products.

Moreover, the benefits offered by bioresorbable implants over their metal counterparts are expected to boost their use among surgeons. Among the perceived advantages are the averting of a second surgery to remove screws as well as obviating the problems caused by metal implants during post-operative radiological examinations such as MRI/CT.

Orthopaedic surgeons are increasingly transferring their allegiance from allograft and autograft bone grafts to synthetic bone graft substitutes. Accordingly, the fastest growing sub-segment is likely to be the application of absorbable and erodible biomaterials as synthetic bone graft alternatives.

Another sub-segment poised to register significant growth is likely to be absorbable fracture fixation devices. Herein, growing sales of absorbable plates and screws for use in traumatology and cranio-maxillofacial surgery are expected to provide the principal thrust to expansion.

Rapid growth in the orthopaedic biomaterials segment is expected to erode the share of the wound closure biomaterials segment in the overall market. Despite this, the wound closure biomaterials segment is expected to account for a healthy 65,8 percent of the market in 2009. A clutch of factors is expected to sustain steady demand for wound closure devices. Principal among these market drivers will be efforts to reduce waiting times, a trend that is expected to increase the number of surgical procedures performed.

"Since demand for wound closure devices is directly related to the number of surgical procedures carried out, any increase in the number of surgical procedures will result in an increased demand for wound closure products", explained Frost & Sullivan research analyst Paul Taylor.

A considerable number of new applications are emerging for absorbable wound closure products. For instance, fibrin/tissue sealants are utilised to staunch blood loss and assist in wound closure of parenchymal tissue such as liver, lung, and spleen after surgery. Vascular surgery and obstetrics and gynaecology procedures present potentially productive application areas for surgical sealants.

The emergence of new technologies and the development of innovative, commercial products is expected to spur growth in niche markets, such as adhesion barriers. Among the promising new absorbable biomaterials in the wound closure market are bi-direction barbed absorbable sutures, which can be used across a range of surgical procedures and biodendrimers.

The remarkable increase in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery procedures in Europe is also acting as a stimulant to market growth. Advances in tissue adhesives have folded into this trend and are opening up lucrative new growth opportunities for manufacturers of skin adhesives and glues.

In 2002, the absorbable surgical sutures market, estimated to be worth USD 307,9 million, was established as the largest individual sub-segment. Synthetic absorbable surgical sutures have almost entirely replaced absorbable "catgut sutures" throughout Europe as a result of concerns over biological safety.

Other sub-segments such as tissue sealants, haemostats, surgical adhesives and glues are all set on a course of expansion. However, there is less positive news for the ligation clip sub-segment that will continue to meet niche expectations but is forecast to remain the smallest revenue generator in the wound closure biomaterials segment.

The continuing and growing popularity of minimally invasive surgery is and will continue to be a major challenge to manufacturers of wound closure devices. Smaller incision sites associated with this type of surgery are expected to restrain the growth and development of all forms of wound closure devices.

The overall absorbable and erodible biomaterials market is currently dominated by Ethicon who along with Tyco Healthcare, Baxter International, and B.Braun account for 75,5 percent of market share. Mr. Taylor added: "New market entrants especially in the synthetic bone graft substitutes segment are expected to emerge, whilst there will be a consolidation amongst existing suppliers as the market experiences acquisitions and mergers amongst existing partners and joint venture agreements."

The study on the European biomaterials markets is available at the price of 5000 Euros and can be ordered by contacting Mrs. Katja Feick of Frost & Sullivan.

Leslie Versweyveld

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