Characterization of Biodegradable Medical Materials.

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering


Since the twentieth century, the development of artificial implants needed in surgical restorative health care has been dominated by biologically inert and corrosion-resistant materials. These permanent implants either need to be removed through a secondary surgery or remain in the host body for a lifetime. Remaining implants often cause long-term complications either from slow but progressive corrosion and material properties deterioration or as a result of characteristics that are different from the intruded biological environment. The paradigm of permanent implants has been challenged over the last two decades through the development of biodegradable implant materials. Biodegradable implants can provide the biomechanical support necessary throughout the healing process but will eventually dissolve and be replaced by the host tissue. Biodegradable polymers were the primary candidates for implants, given the ease of processing and shaping, together with their predictable degradation products. However, their low mechanical properties, poor visibility in the body, and acidification of the implantation site during degradation have limited widespread clinical application of polymer implants. Biodegradable metallic materials have superior mechanical properties and have been investigated as candidate materials for vascular, orthopedic, suturing, and other medical applications since the beginning of the twenty-first century. However, new materials for medical applications must fulfill clinical requirements related to deployment, efficacy, and device safety, which pose challenges to metallurgists in designing, characterizing, and testing these materials, as discussed in the following collection of papers written by experts in the field of biodegradable implants.

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