Sterilization, toxicity, biocompatibility and clinical applications of polylactic acid/polyglycolic acid copolymers

Kyriacos A. Athanasiou, Gabriele G. Niederauer, C. Mauli Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1130 Scopus citations


This is a review of salient studies of sterilization, toxicity, biocompatibility, clinical applications and current work in the field of orthopaedics, using implants made of polylactic acid (PLA), polyglycolic acid (PGA) and their copolymers. The intrinsic nature of these biomaterials renders them suitable for applications where temporally slow releases of bioactive agents in situ may be required. They are also desirable as fixation devices of bone, because they can virtually eliminate osteopenia associated with stress shielding or additional surgery. The majority of currently available sterilization techniques are not suitable for these thermoplastic materials and it may be desirable to develop new sterilization standards, which can account for the special character of PLA-PGA materials. Biocompatibility and toxicity studies suggest that, overall, PLA-PGA biomaterials may be suitable for orthopaedic applications, although certain problems, especially pertaining to reduction in cell proliferation, have been reported. Clinical applications are also promising, albeit not without problems usually associated with transient tissue inflammation. The future of these materials appears bright, especially in soft tissues. They may be used to address the exceedingly complex problem of osteochondral repair, but also as a means to enhance fixation and repair processes in tendons and ligaments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-102
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996


  • Polyglycolic acid
  • Polylactic acid
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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