Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 13 Jun 2023

Pyrocarbon or pyrolytic carbon is a synthetic material that, due to its tribological properties and biocompatibility, particularly with blood, was initially used in the medical field for mechanical heart valves.

To make pyrocarbon-coated orthopedic implants, a graphite substrate is coated with a thin layer (0.1–1 mm) of pyrolytic carbon by chemical vapor deposition at a temperature of about 1500 °C. I

Characteristics pyrocarbon implants

  • the elastic modulus is similar to cortical bone resulting in biomechanical compatibility with bone.

  • better biological fixation to existing bone.

  • reduction of stress shielding

  • long-term biological compatibility

  • positioned without cemented fixation but by bone apposition

History and etymology

Pyrocarbon is a synthetic material developed in the 1950s and 1960s for nuclear reactors, and in 1996 a pure carbon implant material was introduced. Initially, a pyrolytic carbon joint was used for total replacement for the metacarpophalangeal joint (MCP) of the hand. Today joint implants made of pyrolytic carbon have expanded to include shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, foot and ankle implants.

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