Nickel-containing materials are commonly used in medical applications for a variety of reasons:
- Nickel-containing stainless steels tools, contact surfaces and other equipment can be repeatedly and effectively sterilized using rather harsh disinfecting chemicals without degradation of the material.
- Nickel-containing stainless steels can be produced with no ferromagnetism to ensure compatibility with a diagnostic tool such as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Stainless steels are also compatible with X-rays.
- Nickel-containing stainless steels are highly ductile materials, which have good strength properties. Increased levels of strength can be obtained by modifying the alloy composition or by cold working the material where needed.
- Nickel-containing stainless steels for implant applications are considered to be biocompatible in appropriate applications. Certain have been successfully employed with a well characterized level of biological response. However, no implant material has ever been shown to be completely free of adverse reactions in the human body.
- Most nickel-containing stainless steels are suitable for applications where long term contact with the skin is involved, and capable of passing the European Jewellery directive acceptance test.
- Shape-memory alloys are possible, e.g. nickel-titanium alloys, which have been used in stents and dental appliances.
- Pure nickel, whether as plating or powder embedded in plastic, is effective in reducing EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) and preventing EMI from effective sensitive medical equipment.
The Nickel Institute has written several advisory notes regarding the use of nickel-containing materials in various medical applications:
Also of potential interest for applications where skin contact (and thus potentially nickel contact dermatitis) is involved: Nickel and Jewellery
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