Practical Failure Analysis

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 57–64 | Cite as

Fatigue failures of austenitic stainless steel orthopedic fixation devices

  • M. E. Stevenson
  • M. E. Barkey
  • R. C. Bradt
Peer Reviewed Articles


Failures of four different 300-series austenitic stainless steel biomedical fixation implants were examined. The device fractures were observed optically, and their surfaces were examined by scanning electron microscopy. Fractography identified fatigue to be the failure mode for all four of the implants. In every instance, the fatigue cracks initiated from the attachment screw holes at the reduced cross sections of the implants. Two fixation implant designs were analyzed using finite-element modeling. This analysis confirmed the presence of severe stress concentrations adjacent to the attachment screw holes, the fatigue crack initiation sites. Conclusions were reached regarding the design of these types of implant fixation devices, particularly the location of the attachment screw holes. The use of austenitic stainless steel for these biomedical implant devices is also addressed. Recommendations to improve the fixation implant design are suggested, and the potential benefits of the substitution of titanium or a titanium alloy for the stainless steel are discussed.


fatigue crack growth stainless steel medical device failure analysis biomaterials biomechanics 


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Copyright information

© ASM International - The Materials Information Society 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. E. Stevenson
    • 1
  • M. E. Barkey
    • 2
  • R. C. Bradt
    • 3
  1. 1.Metals & Materials EngineersSuwanee
  2. 2.Department of Aerospace Engineering and MechanicsUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosa
  3. 3.Department of Metallurgical and Materials EngineeringUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosa

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