Fretting corrosion behavior of nitinol spinal rods in conjunction with titanium pedicle screws

Elena Lukina, Mikhail Kollerov, Jay Meswania, Alla Khon, Pavel Panin, Gordon W Blunn

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Untypical corrosion damage including erosions combined with the build-up of titanium oxide as a corrosion product on the surface of explanted Nitinol spinal rods in the areas where it was in contact with titanium pedicle screw head is reported. It was suggested that Nitinol rods might have inferior fretting corrosion resistance compared with that made of titanium or CoCr. Fretting corrosion of Nitinol spinal rods with titanium (Ti6Al4V) pedicle screws were tested in-vitro by conducting a series of potentiostatic measurements of the peak-to-peak values of fretting corrosion current under bending in a 10% solution of calf serum in PBS. The test included Nitinol rods locked in titanium pedicle screws of different designs. Performance of commercially available titanium (Ti6Al4V) and CoCr spinal rods was also investigated for a comparison. Corrosion damage observed after the in-vitro tests was studied using SEM and EDAX analysis and was compared with patterns on Nitinol rods retrieved 12months after initial surgery. Metal ions level was measured in the test media after in-vitro experiments and in the blood and tissues of the patients who had the rods explanted. The results of this study revealed that Nitinol spinal rods locked in Ti pedicle screws are susceptible to fretting corrosion demonstrating higher fretting corrosion current compared with commercially used Ti6Al4V and CoCr rods. On the surface of Nitinol rods after in-vitro tests and on those retrieved from the patients similar corrosion patterns were observed. Improved resistance to fretting corrosion was observed with Nitinol rods in the in-vitro tests where pedicle screws were used with a stiffer locking mechanism. Since the development of the localized corrosion damage might increase the risk of premature fatigue failure of the rods and result in leaching of Ni ions, it is concluded that Nitinol rods should not be used in conjunction with Ti pedicle screws without special protection especially where the design provides a high degree of mobility to the rods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-610
Number of pages10
JournalMaterials Science and Engineering: C
Early online date3 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Alloys
  • Corrosion
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Pedicle Screws
  • Spectrometry, X-Ray Emission
  • Temperature
  • Titanium


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