As you'd expect, orthopedic implants are very "high tech." Their designs can be quite complex, and the materials used to make them, called biomaterials, are highly developed. Examples of biomaterials include titanium, cobalt-chrome, polyethylene, and Trabecular Metal™ Material.
In the United States, the FDA requires extensive testing before a new material may be used in an orthopedic implant. The materials most commonly used have a long history of clinical use with great success.
There are many different biomaterials, but there's no single biomaterial that is best for all implants and all patients. The specific requirements of an implant material vary depending on how the implant was designed to be used.
Like medicine, biomaterials can produce side effects. Some of side effects seen with biomaterials include microscopic debris, increased ion levels in the blood or urine, or inflammation. These are rare, but you should be aware of the possibility. For these reasons, your doctor will evaluate you individually and carefully consider the material that is used to manufacture your implant, along with its design.
This information on biomaterials is intended to answer some of the most common questions about the biomaterials used in orthopedic implants, but it cannot tell you what material is best for your implant. Only your doctor can tell you that. If you have more questions for your surgeon about the biomaterials in your implant, be sure to ask during your visits.