Relating nickel-induced tissue inflammation to nickel release in vivo

John C. Wataha, Norris L. O'Dell, Baldev B. Singh, Mohamed Ghazi, Gary M. Whitford, Petra E. Lockwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Nickel has a number of adverse biological effects that have made the use of nickel in biomedical implants controversial. Yet information about the distribution of nickel in tissues around nickel-containing implants is scarce. The purpose of the current study was to use a laser ablation technique, combined with inductively coupled mass spectroscopy, to assess the spatial distribution of nickel around nickel-containing implants in vivo. Polyethylene, pure nickel wire, or a nickel-containing alloy (Ni-Cr) were implanted subcutaneously into rats for 7 days. The tissues were analyzed for Ni content and inflammation at 1-mm intervals up to 5 mm away from the implants. The sham surgery sites and the polyethylene caused mild to moderate inflammation 1-2 mm from the implant site with no detectable nickel in the tissue. The nickel wire caused severe inflammation up to 5 mm away from the implant site with necrosis for 1 mm around the implant. Nickel concentrations reached 48 μg/g near the implants, falling exponentially to undetectable levels at 3-4 mm from the implants. The Ni-Cr wire caused inflammation equivalent to polyethylene, with less than 4 μg/g of nickel present in the tissue for 1-2 mm around the implants. The current study showed that the laser-ablation technique was well suited for the analysis of soft tissues for metal-ion content, and that the nickel distribution in tissues correlated well with overt tissue inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-544
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomedical Materials Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 8 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Implants
  • Laser ablation
  • Tissue, metal ions
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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