Polyether-ether-ketone (PEEK)

Last revised by Domenico Nicoletti on 12 Mar 2023

Polyether-ether-ketone (PEEK) is a special thermoplastic engineering plastic with biological, mechanical, and chemical properties that provides an alternative to titanium alloys in the development of implantable load-bearing medical devices, which require extra strength and biocompatibility 1,2.

Characteristics of PEEK 1:

  • radiolucent with artifact-free imaging (CT and MRI) for accurate and reliable post-operative monitoring

  • excellent fatigue resistance

  • very high compression strength durability

  • low coefficient of friction, making it a “slick” material easing insertion into host bone.

  • modulus of elasticity is very similar to that of bone, so the joint can bear weight and move like bone

  • stiffness closely matches that of cortical bone, and acts like a load-sharing device, compared to a load-bearing device, which is advantageous in dynamic areas of the body, such as the hands and feet to prevent stress shielding after fracture fixation

  • is impervious to organic processes, i.e. does not corrode nor does it liberate metal ions

Clinical applications 1:

  • plate and screw fixation, arthrodesis procedures in the upper and lower extremity

  • arthroplasty implants

  • spinal fusion cages

  • arthroscopic devices such as suture anchors and interference screws

  • 3-D printing of patient-specific implants for osteotomies

History and etymology

PEEK was first produced in 1978 in the UK laboratories. It was initially used in spine and dental applications 1.

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