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Attacking Implant Infections

Nearly 1 million people undergo a hip, knee or shoulder replacement every year, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and in about 1 to 2 percent of those cases, an implant gets infected. The most common cause of these infections is a type of bacteria Staphylococcus epidermidis, which is found on the skin and mucous membranes.

Orthopaedic implant surgeries are on the rise, with a current market valued at more than $16 billion and a projected value exceeding $23 billion by 2010, according to the Stevens Institute of Technology.

With the increasing number of procedures comes an increasing risk for implant infections, and researchers are working on solutions.

Some researchers are working with substances called hydrogels, polymers that absorb large amounts of water.

Most bacteria -- including the Staph strains common to implant infections -- can't adhere to most hydrogels.

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