Author(s): Daniels AU, Chang MK, Andriano KP
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Abstract The mechanical properties of biodegradable polymers and composites proposed for use in internal fixation (in place of stainless steel) are crucial to the performance of devices made from them for support of healing bone. To assess the reported range of properties and degradation rates, we searched and reviewed papers and abstracts published in English from 1980 through 1988. Mechanical property data were found for poly(lactic acid), poly(glycolic acid), poly(epsilon-caprolactone), polydioxanone, poly(ortho ester), poly(ethylene oxide), and/or their copolymers. Reports of composites based on several of these materials, reinforced with nondegradable and degradable fibers, were also found. The largest group of studies involved poly(lactic acid). Mechanical test methods varied widely, and studies of the degradation of mechanical properties were performed under a variety of conditions, mostly in vitro rather than in vivo. Compared to annealed stainless steel, unreinforced biodegradable polymers were initially up to 36\% as strong in tension and 54\% in bending, but only about 3\% as stiff in either test mode. With fiber reinforcement, reported highest initial strengths exceeded that of stainless steel. Stiffness reached 62\% of stainless steel with nondegradable carbon fibers, 15\% with degradable inorganic fibers, but only 5\% with degradable polymeric fibers. The slowest-degrading unreinforced biodegradable polymers were poly(L-lactic acid) and poly(ortho ester). Biodegradable composites with carbon or inorganic fibers generally lost strength rapidly, with a slower loss of stiffness, suggesting the difficulty of fiber-matrix coupling in these systems. The strength of composites reinforced with (lower modulus) degradable polymeric fibers decreased more slowly. Low implant stiffness might be expected to allow too much bone motion for satisfactory healing. However, unreinforced or degradable polymeric fiber reinforced materials have been used successfully clinically. The key has been careful selection of applications, plus use of designs and fixation methods distinctly different from those appropriate for stainless steel devices.
This article was published in J Appl Biomater
and referenced in Clinical Pharmacology & Biopharmaceutics