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This paper presents the results of tests that demonstrate the feasibility of using piezoelectric (PZT) ceramics to generate in vivo electrical energy for orthopedic implants. Sensors encapsulated within implants could provide in vivo diagnostic capabilities such as the monitoring of implant duty (i.e., walking) cycle, detecting abnormally asymmetric or high forces, sensing misalignment and early loosening, and early detection of wear. Early diagnosis of abnormalities or impending failure is critical to minimize patient harm. However, the routine use of sensors and microprocessors embedded within orthopedic implants for diagnostic and monitoring purposes has been limited by the lack of a long-term self-contained power source capable of lasting the expected 20-year implant lifetimes. By embedding PZT materials within orthopedic implants, a small amount of the mechanical energy generated during normal physical activity can be converted into useful electrical energy. This in vivo energy source can power embedded microprocessors and sensors for a broad range of biomedical uses. The current work investigates the application of this technology to total knee replacement (TKR) implants, but it is applicable to many other implanted biomedical devices.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2005