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Biomaterials. 2006 Sep;27(27):4671-81. Epub 2006 Jun 5.

Experimental and clinical performance of porous tantalum in orthopedic surgery.

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  • 1Orthopaedics, Rush University Medical Center, 1725 E. Harrison Street, Suite 1063, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


Porous tantalum, a new low modulus metal with a characteristic appearance similar to cancellous bone, is currently available for use in several orthopedic applications (hip and knee arthroplasty, spine surgery, and bone graft substitute). The open-cell structure of repeating dodecahedrons is produced via carbon vapor deposition/infiltration of commercially pure tantalum onto a vitreous carbon scaffolding. This transition metal maintains several interesting biomaterial properties, including: a high volumetric porosity (70-80%), low modulus of elasticity (3MPa), and high frictional characteristics. Tantalum has excellent biocompatibility and is safe to use in vivo as evidenced by its historical and current use in pacemaker electrodes, cranioplasty plates and as radiopaque markers. The bioactivity and biocompatibility of porous tantalum stems from its ability to form a self-passivating surface oxide layer. This surface layer leads to the formation of a bone-like apatite coating in vivo and affords excellent bone and fibrous in-growth properties allowing for rapid and substantial bone and soft tissue attachment. Tantalum-chondrocyte composites have yielded successful early results in vitro and may afford an option for joint resurfacing in the future. The development of porous tantalum is in its early stages of evolution and the following represents a review of its biomaterial properties and applications in orthopedic surgery.

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