Technological evolution has revolutionized the medical industry and treatment dynamics. Now, medicine and surgery involve the utilization of various professional tools for treatment to ensure proper surgery. These advancements are making ways for efficient treatment and better patient care.
For the manufacturing of medical equipment, numerous different materials are used. Metals are widely used to prepare surgical aid and tools with a wide variety to choose from. While choosing a metal for surgical equipment, understanding the type of alloy and grade play a major role.
The Need For Choosing The Right Metal
Choosing the right metal plays a vital role in medical equipment manufacturing. But have you wondered why you cannot use one metal for everything? Here’s why you need to find the right metal for particular medical equipment.
- Some medical equipment used to provide support to the body, such as crutches and prosthetic devices
- Mechanical parts involve movement and work together with other body parts like levers and gears
- Formation of complex parts needed to be formed to complex shapes, including blades, probes, and points
- Some equipment used in surgeries requires sterilization
Considering all the different purposes and kinds of processes involved in medical surgery, each instrument needs appropriate metal.
Main Metals Used in Medical Equipment
The main metals used in the manufacturing of medical equipment include:
- Cobalt Chrome
- Stainless Steel
Let’s talk about these metals in detail to see which is the best metal of choice for your need.
Since the 1960s, titanium has become a favorite for medical and surgical equipment. It is perfect for surgical equipment and implants due to its toughness and tensile strength and is used for forceps, needles, orthopedic rods, dental implants, pacemakers, etc. The hardness and strength of titanium increase about 20% on heat treatment. Some of the characteristics that make titanium a suitable choice for implants include:
Titanium is 100% corrosion-resistant, making it suitable for equipment used within the body and for implants.
- It has almost the same tensile strength as carbon steel.
- It is lighter and more flexible than some other metals.
- Titanium is more heat-resistant than stainless steel.
- It is biocompatible and does not act as a foreign stimulus to the body, leading to an infection.
Copper is not as popular to produce equipment used in surgery and implants as it is not a very strong metal. However, its antibacterial and antiviral properties make it one of the most common metals used in surgery and the prevention of diseases. The FDA has approved over 400 copper alloys as biocidal to be used to prevent the transmission of viruses. Copper is commonly used in dental treatments and implants, but not other body parts, as it may cause toxicity.
Aluminum is not used in the production of equipment to be used in surgery but is readily utilized in the manufacturing of medical aid. While aluminum is corrosion resistant, raw aluminum can sometimes oxidize, leading to corrosion. For this purpose, aluminum is anodized or painted to increase its life and save it from corroding. Due to its strength and corrosion-free properties, it is employed in the manufacturing of wheelchairs, IV stands, crutches, and bed frames.
Platinum and Palladium
Platinum and palladium are a bit on the expensive side, yet proving to be an ideal choice for surgical devices and equipment. Both are similar in physical properties with a difference in mass, density, and melting point. Both are durable metals and are used in positioning and guiding implants like stents and catheters.
Here’s why you should choose platinum and palladium for surgical implants:
- Both these metals are inert and do not react with the body organs.
- Platinum and palladium are corrosion-free and safe to be used in surgery.
- They are ductile and easily shapeable into shapes and forms of choice like wires, sheets, and rolls.
- These metals are strong and durable to make sure you do not need a replacement anytime soon.
- One of the major reasons for choosing platinum and palladium are easily detected on the x-ray and used as markers.
- They are commonly utilized in the manufacturing of precision surgical equipment.
Of the two, platinum is a less-costly option.
While choosing the right metal for surgical and medical equipment, considering the biocompatibility, is highly crucial. Tantalum is widely known for this property and is used in various medical instruments because of its corrosion resistance and immunity to bodily fluids. Like platinum and palladium, it also possesses a high degree of ductility and can be easily formed into wires and sheets. It is a strong metal with a high melting point. Tantalum is widely utilized in the production of prosthetics and implants.
Cobalt chrome is a metal alloy formed by chromium and cobalt. It is a feasible choice for surgical instruments as it is convenient to 3D print the desired shape. Before using for the manufacturing of equipment, electropolishing makes the surface smooth to avoid contamination. Due to high-temperature endurance, strength, and wear resistance, cobalt chrome is one of the most preferred metal alloys. It is also biocompatible and serves as the perfect choice for dental implants and orthopedic prosthetics.
Stainless steel is the most widely used metal in the medical instrument industry because of its corrosion resistance and durability. It is the best choice for people who particularly have nickel allergies. Its non-toxic nature makes it right for use to avoid contamination. Stainless steel with chromium oxide film is self-healing to chemical or mechanical damage. It is possible to prepare stainless steel alloy surgical equipment through cold work to create great tensile strength and toughness without affecting the ductility. Stainless steel is used in the production of forceps, tweezers, screws for broken bones, and intravascular stents as it is easily sterilized.