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New Technique for Using Silver to Improve the Effectiveness of Medical Implants

A team from Purdue University recently developed a new technique aimed at reducing infections from medical device implants by using laser technology and silver to modify titanium surfaces. We’ve discussed silver’s potential to reduce the risk of device-related infections previously, but this new use case only adds to silver’s antimicrobial accolades.

Aside from reducing the risk of infection, silver has also been shown to have osteoinductive properties. These properties help prompt bone cell formation and mineralization following surgery, something that classic titanium implants have been known to fail at.

Laser-Assisted Nanotexturing and Silver Immobilization

The technique was developed by Rahim Rahimi, a Purdue University assistant professor in the School of Materials Engineering. What stands out about Rahimi’s patent-pending process is that it can be applied to many already existing titanium screws, rods, and implant devices used during orthopedic and trauma surgery.

“The first step of the two-step process creates a hierarchical nanostructure onto the titanium implant surface to enhance the bone cells’ attachment,” Rahimi said. “The second step immobilizes silver with antibacterial properties onto the titanium implant surface.

What is being called “laser-assisted nanotexturing and silver immobilization,” was applied to multiple titanium-based devices, and then tested against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria. The new nanotextured, silver surface was shown to maintain antimicrobial properties for more than 6 days against both forms of these common infectious bacteria. Encouragingly, this new silver coating presents a promising solution to a prevent infections from a wide range of microbes that can accumulate on implant devices. Further, the coating stays intact for some time –  potentially eliminating the need for continued antibiotic treatment following orthopedic surgery, which is not sustainable.

A 2.5-fold increase in bone integration, also known as osseointegration, was also observed when compared to “pristine” titanium implant surfaces.

Rahimi and his team plan to improve upon their technique and are hopeful for patent approval. In the meantime, they plan to continue to apply nanotexturization and silver immobilization to other devices commonly used in orthopedic procedures. If they get FDA approval, you can expect to find silver used more commonly in implant devices.

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