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Magnesium and Orthopaedics



Magnesium is a highly versatile and multi-purpose metal. Being a biocompatible material, it has many medical applications, one such application being in the field of orthopaedics. As most of the magnesium produced - organically - in the human body is stored in the bones, it is no doubt that metallic Magnesium implants will be compatible when used on the same.

Medical professionals have, for decades, been experimenting with various metals to ensure strong and lasting implants to support the body. And as a number of the pre-existing materials that have been used, tend to have caused problems mainly due to their corrosion rates when embedded into the human body; which only gets exacerbated by the surgeries needed for both implant and removal. As such, these implants tend to become very expensive and therefore available only to those who can afford them. To combat this, research has been conducted to substitute current metals with Magnesium for implant use.


Studies have found that Magnesium, when used for implants, has a slow degradation rate. It has a degradation rate of ten months after implantation with an increased presence of bone formation. Moreover, it is also considered to be the lightest structural metal, which would lead to lesser strain when being used on a day to day basis. Even though such benefits have been found, there has been a worry around the corrosion resistance of the metal.


Corrosion resistance when it comes to implants is a necessity as a higher corrosion resistance rate ensures the improved quality of the implant. As such, there have been searches on how best to combat this problem, especially when using magnesium as a metallic substitute for implants. Though commonly used in the automotive industry, it has been found that the addition of metals such as Zinc or Manganese to Magnesium in the medical field, can help reduce common problems such as corrosion resistance. Moreover, with a high strength to weight ratio, Magnesium acts as a sustainable and biodegradable material that is best suited for implants.


Regardless, one of the main problems that counter the use of bone implants is rigidity. Most metals tend to be far more rigid than the bone it is supporting or the bone supporting it and therefore, may cause a lot of friction or stress on the bones above or below the implant. Using a magnesium alloy for such implants negates this issue due to its durability, strength, and flexibility. Though not as flexible as the original bone, it acts as a close substitute that causes comparatively less harm to the bone and body than the metals in current use.


Another problem that comes up when there is an implant placed in the human body, is stress shielding. Stress shielding leads to slight degradation of the bone due to a lack of natural weight that was earlier caused by the original bone in place. Therefore, if there is a lack of stress shielding once - currently general use - implants are placed, further harm will be caused to the human body. Magnesium, on the other hand, helps in resolving such issues due to its similarity to the human bone.


Furthermore, the use of Magnesium as an implant assists the body better and acts as a sustainable source for the environment and as such, it brings the best of both worlds by taking away the negatives from each. Additionally, there is minimal or even no need for a second surgery thus saving the patient from the emotional and physical pain and uncomfortability that would go hand in hand when their implants are being replaced, repaired or removed and reattached.


Moreover, any magnesium particles floating in the body due to degradation of the material will be absorbed by the tissues around it or filtered through the blood. This acts as an added bonus on the benefits of using Magnesium as a substitute for pre-existing implants. Overall, using Magnesium as a replacement for current day metals in the field of implants can help generate multiple benefits for the patient and the community involved. Though there still needs to be more studies conducted on the effects of such implants long-term, it does act as a better option than most other non-flexible materials in current use.




Further Links

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213956721001699

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