Is the early fragmentation of intrauterine devices caused by stress corrosion cracking?
Copper wire is the main component of a type of intrauterine device used as a contraceptive. Its contraceptive effect is attributed to the copper ions released as a result of the dissolution of copper in the uterus. Even though 10-year intrauterine device life is estimated on the basis of the dissolution rate of copper measured in vivo and in vitro, some cases of breakdown or fragmentation of the copper wire after short periods of insertion (2–3 months) have been reported. Due to the possible existence of residual stresses as a consequence of the manufacturing process, stress corrosion cracking has been previously proposed as an explanation for the early ruptures. In the present work, the susceptibility of copper wires to stress corrosion cracking in simulated uterine fluids was investigated. Results indicate that early ruptures should not be attributed to stress corrosion cracking. They could be explained by considering the increase in corrosion rate under certain conditions (pH decrease during infections; changes in the concentration of organic components along the menstrual cycle; etc.) that reduces the wire section leading to the rupture of the specimen by overloading.
Journal: Acta Biomaterialia - Volume 5, Issue 8, October 2009, Pages 3240–3246