Titanium: The Latest Building Block for The Future Of Medicine

March 28, 2018
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Titanium is considered the most compatible metal with the human body. Introduced in the 1940’s, titanium is utilized in a vast array of medical applications including approximately 50% of common orthopedic implants such as hip replacements. 80% of the demand for medical equipment is for products in which titanium is widely used such as surgical instruments, prosthetics and dental implants.

The benefits and versatility of titanium has made it a staple in the medical field with a projected importance that would be difficult to overestimate. That is why medical scientists are embracing the changes of technological advances of titanium and its broad use in the medical field.

Advantages of Medical Titanium

Titanium has a high strength-to-weight ratio and as such, using titanium tools helps with the reduction of surgeon fatigue. Another benefit of using titanium is that it is corrosion resistant, meaning that it can be used for implant surgeries without being affected by (or reacting with) bodily fluids and acids. This makes titanium durable and long lasting and instruments made from titanium can be repeatedly sterilized without compromising their quality. A third advantage of titanium is that it is biocompatible. This means that titanium is non-toxic, has no negative side effects with tissues, and will unlikely be rejected by the body.

A property that is unique to titanium is its ability to be Osseo integrated a process where bone and tissue are bonded with an artificial implant. This is a highly advantageous property as it makes titanium one of the only metals able to be used for successful integration. Other attributes that make titanium advantageous include its flexibility, elasticity, low electrical conductivity, durability, cost effectiveness and non-magnetic properties, which make it useful for MRI applications. These properties are what make medical titanium so versatile and heavily adopted in the medical field.

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Titanium Innovations In Medical Applications

With the beneficial properties that titanium possesses, it is no surprise that there are a great range of medical applications that utilize this metal. Medical grade titanium has been used to manufacture many products including pins, screws, bars, bone plates, wires, rods and even toe replacements and facial prosthetics. One of the most common uses of medical titanium is during hip, knee and shoulder replacement surgery where a titanium stem is inserted into the body to act as an artificial joint. Another popular application for titanium is used in orthodontics where titanium wires are frequently used in products such as braces. These titanium ‘arch wires’ are viewed as highly innovative products as they are more flexible than the stainless steel wiring and therefore do not need to be adjusted as often.

Titanium Innovations in Medical Devices

Applying titanium (and titanium alloys) to the medical industry has been a great innovation as it offers a number of advantages over other metals. For this reason, titanium is also used in a wide range of surgical equipment, some of which include; tweezers, forceps, scissors, drills, clips, needles, LASIK eye surgery equipment, scalers and retractors. Titanium devices can be anodized, making them non-reflective.

This is important for surgeries under bright lights so that glare is minimized or eliminated. Titanium is as strong as stainless steel but it is 40% lighter, which makes working with titanium tools a lot easier to handle. Titanium is also bacteria resistant, which means it can be used in procedures without concern of contamination.

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With developments in prosthetic technology and an ageing population with an increasing requirement for orthopedic and dental implants, the demand for titanium in medical applications will continue to grow. Medical grade titanium offers a solution like no other metal. Its flexibility, strength-to-weight ratio, biocompatibility and anti-corrosion properties make titanium a versatile material with broad ranging applications. These advantageous properties make titanium indispensable to the medical field and will ensure that titanium continues to be the preferred metal of choice in the medical industry for years to come.