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Orthopaedics, the science that deals with the functional preservation and restoration of the skeletal system, has historically relied on high-strength, corrosion-resistant metals. A better understanding of skeletal forces and bone remodeling has recently led scientists to consider the potential application of polymer matrix composite materials for orthopaedic applications. The attractive characteristics of composites include a relatively lower elastic modulus compared to current implant metals, no potential for metal ion release in the body environment, and the ability to custom tailor strength and other mechanical properties to best suit a particular design requirement. While these features are attractive, the harsh service conditions imposed by the human body require that development of an acceptable composite implant be well researched. This study presents details of these research areas, thus presents the challenge. The most appropriate opportunities for composites as an alternative implant material are also discussed. There is a definite need for improved implant materials and one that is increasing yearly as the life expectancy increases and the population of the elderly expands. Improved orthopaedic implants are needed to meet the needs of these patients, primarily arthritic, and thus provide a capability to further improve their quality of life.
Materials research director, Richards Medical Co., Memphis, TN
Stock #: CTR10436J