Biocompatibility of materials increasingly occupies the consciousness of engineers dealing with medical and biological problems. The engineer has long been accustomed to dealing with materials, limits on design. These limits, such as yield stress, endurance limit, and rupture life, are reflected in design margins tailored to the criticality of the specific application. In situations involving biological interactions as a portion of the design problem, the additional materials limit of biocompatibility must be considered.
Failure of compatibility (that is, incompatibility) is proving to be the ultimate limit to the engineering solution of many biomedical problems. As a result, it is necessary to incorporate a thorough grounding in the aspects of biocompatibility — or, as I prefer to term it more generally, biological performance of materials — into the training of bioengineers.
When this book was first conceived, in the early 1970s, no suitable textbooks dealing with broad aspects of biomedical materials or, as the field rapidly came to be called, biomaterials, were available. Today, as this field has matured into biomaterials science and engineering (BSE), many edited collections and topical monographs are available for students and workers at many different levels. However, none seems to suit the neophyte: the former are invariably written by a panel of experts and thus tend to be uneven in attempting to be comprehensive and the latter are the work of a single investigator or research group focusing on relatively narrow and parochial interests. Both of these types of books have a place and many are extremely valuable to the advanced worker, but they all fail to meet the needs of the student or the professional without a background in the field. Thus, it appears that the current work is still needed; it focuses primarily on principles of biological performance at a relatively fundamental level: interactions between living and nonliving materials whose consideration sets BSE apart as a distinct field of investigation and knowledge.
Biological Performance of Materials: Fundamentals of Biocompatibility was originally intended for use as an undergraduate text for a one-term, junior– senior-level bioengineering course on biological performance. I and others have used it in this role. However, with the assignment of selected articles as reading and study sources, it has also proven useful as the central text in undergraduate survey courses on biomaterials and on artificial organs. With additional reading material from the scientific and clinical literature and from materials science texts, it has also been used as the focus of a first-year graduate course in biomaterials for students with engineering (but not biological or medical) backgrounds and, conversely, as a supplementary text for courses on implants for nursing students with little or no engineering training. Finally, engineers working in medical device development and evaluation in industrial as well as governmental settings have found it a useful reference book. The scarcity of reference to actual materials and specific applications has apparently made this diversity of use possible; this revision attempts to maintain the versatility of the work. Primary training in materials science and biology is useful, but not totally essential, because this book is intended for use in conjunction with undergraduate texts in materials science and biology, as needed, so as to accommodate variations in individual degrees of preparation.