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Biocompatibility of titanium and 316L stainless steel -- need literature

An ongoing discussion from 2003 through 2015 . . .


Q. There is an implantable medical device on the market which has very small, passivated, 316L stainless steel parts embedded into a plastic component. Historically, 316L stainless steel has been used for permanent implants, but I am looking for a good source of literature which contains data to support the biocompatibility of the 316L stainless steel material as a permanent implant. Any suggestions?

D. P. Sin
medical device - St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

Handbook of Materials for Medical Devices


A. ASM International is publishing a new book on this subject called "Handbook of Materials for Medical Devices", edited by J. R. Davis. Unfortunately, it won't be available until later in 2003 =>
In the meantime, I would recommend performing a search of scientific journals, etc. Scirus, a search engine from Elsevier (largest publisher of scientific journals), is very good for this. Using "316L stainless steel biocompatiblity" as the keywords yields 242 results, of which 123 are journal articles and 119 are web pages. You can narrow or widen the search as necessary.

Toby Padfield
Automotive module supplier - Michigan

Ed. note: Feb. 2014: Scirus no longer exists, and has been replaced by; it still offers titles and abstracts, but you must pay for access to articles. However, there are some "open access" journals available from that site which can be accessed in full at no cost.


A. Carpenter Technologies has information on medical alloys on their Biodur site^Update Feb. 2015: that URL is now a GoDaddy link farm. While 316LS (Carpenter's refinement of 316L) is still used for medical devices including implants, a newer stainless alloy known as CCM (cobalt-chromium-molybdenum) has better pitting corrosion resistance vs. saline body fluids, and reduced Ni (1%) for better biocompatibility. In CCM Plus, the Ni content has been eliminated for even better biocompatibility.

316LS meets the surgical implant requirements of ASTM F138 [link by ed. to spec at TechStreet], F139-03 and F1350-02 for various physical forms of wrought 18 Chromium-14 Nickel-2.5 Molybdenum Stainless Steel (UNS S31673) for surgical implants.

The alloys CCM & CCM Plus meet ASTM F1537-00 and F799-02 for Cobalt-28-Chromium-6-Molybdenum Alloy (UNS R31537, UNS R31538, and UNS R31539) for surgical implants. These alloys are significantly more expensive than 316 due to the cobalt and higher Cr contents.

Information on titanium alloys for Surgical Implant Applications is also available. Some ASTM Specifications: ASTM 136-02a Wrought Titanium-6 Aluminum-4 Vanadium ELI (Extra Low Interstitial) Alloy (UNS R56401), F1295-01 Standard Specification for Wrought Titanium-6 Aluminum-7 Niobium (UNS R56700), and F1472-02a Wrought Titanium-6 Aluminum-4 Vanadium (UNS R56400).

You can also seek relevant literature by a citation search for ASTM F981-99 Standard Practice for Assessment of Compatibility of Biomaterials for Surgical Implants with Respect to Effect of Materials on Muscle and Bone. This document combines past Practices F361-80 and F469-78, so these would be cited by older literature.

Ken Vlach
- Goleta, California
contributor of the year honored Ken for his countless carefully
researched responses. He passed away May 14, 2015.
Rest in peace, Ken. Thank you for your hard work
which the finishing world continues to benefit from.


A. Additional information on international medical-quality stainless steels.

British Stainless Steel Association ( has 2 brief online articles (free registration) containing information from BS and ISO standards on medical stainless steels. Abstracts:

"Selection of stainless steels for surgical implants." The special compositions, non-metallic inclusion, ferrite and grain size requirements are outlined. Commercial 316 cannot be used for surgical implants as the composition and micro-cleanness are very unlikely to meet the ISO 5832 standards. Compared to AISI 316L, the phosphorus and sulfur limits are lower, at 0.025% P and 0.010% S, and nitrogen and copper have been added. Standards: BS 7252-1:1997, ISO 5832-1:1997 Metallic materials for surgical implants. Specification for wrought stainless steel. BS 7252-9:1993, ISO 5832-9:1992 Metallic materials for surgical implants. Specification for high-nitrogen stainless steel.

"Selection of stainless steels for surgical instruments." Compositions of 11 martensitic steels, 1 ferritic steel and 4 austenitic stainless steels of BS EN ISO 7153-1:2001 (BS 5194-1:1991) are given. Most grades match generic stainless steels, e.g., 301, 303, 304, 316 and 410. The surgical and dental applications are outlined. These include cutting and non-cutting instruments and fitting parts and assemblies. (Body implants are NOT covered by this standard.) Corrosion resistance, corrosion testing and the effects of sterilization practices are covered.

Ken Vlach
- Goleta, California

 Ed. note: Special thanks to Toby Padfield and Ken Vlach for going way beyond the call of duty with these tremendously informative responses!

Etching titanium alloy for thin film applied by magnatron sputtering


Q. I'm a graduate student in Mechanical engineering at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. I'm trying to enhance the tribological properties of medical grade titanium alloy (Ti-6Al-4V)for biomedical use, by applying ternary nitride thin film nano composites and solid solutions. The problem being the sputtering machine at our disposal can only reach 45 watts, above that the machine can fail. Through my research and review of literature a power of 70 plus watts is necassary. My hopes are that I can chemically etch the titanium wafer then quickly put the sample in the chamber then pump it down and etch to 45 watts and the result will be that I have a coating that doesn't have adhesion problems because of oxide layer problems. If anyone has any ideas I'd really appreciate it. The sputtering chamber has a working gas of argon and later on in the process a reactive gas of molecular nitrogen is let into the system.

Matt Sodergren
Center for Advanced Friction Studies - Carbondale, Illinois, USA


A. My guess is that the oxide will reform on the titanium surface before you can get the parts into the vacuum chamber. There might be other ways to solve the problem if you provide a bit more information on your system. What voltages are you applying to the substrate, and for how long? How large is your system? How large are the substrates? How many sputter sources are you using? What is the substrate/target(s) distance(s)?

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- Vista, California


Q. Can anyone lead me to information on the biocompatibility of stainless steel wire especially regarding chronic inflammation. My personal situation is this- 1985 broken jaw, stainless steel wire used to fix the crack, the wire is now a permanent implant. Problem, approximately 1995 I start to experience inflammation at the wired site on my jaw. I am concerned about the long-term effects of chronic inflammation and want to gather medical information regarding this as a side effect/complication of the wire and solutions thereof. I don't want to remove the wire if there is not benefit as this may cause more problems if it is not warranted.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Shawn O'Hara
- Richboro, Pennsylvania, USA

What grade of titanium for bio-medical applications?

February 6, 2015 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. What kind of the titanium (Titanium alloys) grade are often used with the human (Bio-Medical grade) application? They allow binding to bone and human tissue and also resistance to corrosion in body fluid, favorable mechanical properties and a low magnetic permeability.

Sittikorn Rakjai
- Bangkok, Thailand

February 13, 2015

A. Ti-6Al-7Nb and Ti-6Al-4V are the most common. Ti-6Al-7Nb is stronger.

blake kneedler
Blake Kneedler
Feather Hollow Eng.
Stockton, California

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