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The chemical composition of metal implants has been proven to be critical to the success of fracture fixation (Lambotte 1909, Sherman 1912). Incorrect composition leads to corrosion, implant failure and adverse biological effects (Charles and Ness 2006, Thomas and others 1988). Stainless steel implants should be the 316L grade. The lower carbon content of 316L compared with the 316 grade increases resistance to intergranular corrosion associated with chloride solution environments, such as biological solutions and saline (Fontana and Greene 1967, Curley-Fiorno and Schmid 1980). The mammalian body immerses the stainless steel in a highly oxygenated saline electrolyte environment with a possible PH of 7.4 at a temperature of 37°C, in which halogens can penetrate the passivation layer (chromium oxide) formed on stainless steel. Carbon combines with chromium to form chromium carbide, therefore, the more carbon that is present, the more chromium is bound up reducing the ability to resist corrosion. It is also possible for micro-organisms to use the carbon once the passivation layer is disrupted. Basically, the lower the carbon content of stainless steel, the better it is for resisting corrosion (Williams and Roaf 1973), and the clinical relevance of not having the correct carbon content is increased complications and adverse reactions. Implants are not totally resistant to the effects of tissue fluids, as 90 per cent of retrieved stainless steel implants in human surgery had pitting and crevice corrosion (Sivakumar and others 1995). The objective of the study was to determine if samples of veterinary orthopaedic implants are of the correct grade of stainless steel. Our working hypothesis was that all tested implants would contain the chemical composition claimed by the distributor, and thus, be classified as 316L stainless steel.
Forty implants were grouped into four batches of 10 of the same type of implant. The batches consisted …