Tungsten has a long history of use in medical products, dating back to the manufacture of x-ray tubes in the 1800s. It’s particularly well suited to applications that require hardness and high heat resistance. Tungsten is also a highly conductive metal. But whereas electronic arcing can become an issue for other highly conductive materials, tungsten avoids this problem entirely.
Tungsten is 97% as dense as gold, with a similar resistance to bodily fluids and atmospheric contaminants. Tungsten’s density and electronic performance are also comparable to those of gold. These similarities allow tungsten to serve as a stand-in for gold in some instances. Manufacturers will often apply a gold coating to tungsten wire to cut costs.
Tungsten is frequently used to establish radio opacity in medical devices, often ones implanted inside the body. This is due to tungsten’s very high density, a property that allows it to transmit signals reliably. One such example is tungsten’s use in catheters. Catheters are threaded through veins to get where they need to go inside the body. To ensure accurate placement, doctors track the location of the catheters through the use of x-rays. Tungsten is also used in the manufacture of hand held devices utilized to conduct sonograms, once again due to the metal’s innate ability to transmit signals.
Tungsten is a durable, cost effective metal, and a resource to the medical device industry.