Conformal Coating of Orthopedic Plates with X-ray Scintillators and pH Indicators for X-ray Excited Luminescence Chemical Imaging through Tissue

ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2020 Nov 25;12(47):52343-52353. doi: 10.1021/acsami.0c13707. Epub 2020 Nov 12.


We describe a pH-indicating material that can be directly implanted or coated on orthopedic implant surfaces to provide high-spatial-resolution pH mapping through tissue by X-ray excited luminescence chemical imaging (XELCI). This is especially useful for detecting local pH changes during treatment of implant-associated infections. The material has two layers: an X-ray scintillator layer with Gd2O2S:Eu in epoxy, which emits 620 and 700 nm light when irradiated with X-rays, and a pH indicator dye layer, which absorbs some of the 620 nm light in a pH-dependent fashion. To acquire each pixel in the image, a focused X-ray beam irradiates a small region of scintillators and the ratio of 620 to 700 nm light is acquired through the tissue. Scanning the X-ray beam across the implant surface generates high-spatial-resolution chemical measurements. Two associated challenges are (1) to make robust sensors that can be implanted in tissue to measure local chemical concentrations specifically for metal orthopedic implants and (2) to conformally coat the implant surface with scintillators and pH indicator dyes in order to make measurements over a large area. Previously, we have physically pressed or glued a pH-sensitive hydrogel sensor onto the surface of an implant, but this is impractical for imaging over large irregular device areas such as an orthopedic plate with holes and edges. Herein, we describe a chemically sensitive and biocompatible XELCI sensor material that can conformally coat the implant surface. A two-part commercial-grade epoxy resin was mixed with Gd2O2S:Eu and adhered to the titanium surface. Sugar and salt particles were added to the surface of the epoxy as it cured to create a roughened surface and increase the surface area. On this roughened surface, a secondary layer of diacrylated polyethylene glycol (PEG) hydrogel, containing a pH sensitive dye, was polymerized. This combination of epoxy-PEG layers was found to adhere well to the metal implant unlike other previously tested polymer surfaces, which delaminated when exposed to water or humidity. The focused X-ray beam enabled 0.5 mm spatial resolution through 1 cm-thick tissue. The pH sensor-coated orthopedic plate was imaged with XELCI, through tissue, with different pH levels to acquire a calibration curve. The plates were also imaged through tissue, with a low pH region on one section due to growth of a Staphylococcus aureus biofilm. A pH sensor-coated stainless-steel rod with two distinct pH regions was inserted in a rabbit tibia specimen, and the pH was imaged through both bone and soft tissue. These studies demonstrate the use of pH sensor-coated orthopedic plates and rods for mapping the local pH through tissue during biofilm formation by XELCI.

Keywords: X-ray scintillators; XELCI; bioimaging; epoxy coating; implant-associated infection; orthopedic coatings; pH indicators; pH sensing.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry*
  • Biocompatible Materials / pharmacology
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Epoxy Compounds / chemistry
  • Gadolinium / chemistry
  • Hydrogels / chemistry
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Luminescent Agents / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry
  • Prostheses and Implants
  • Rabbits
  • Stainless Steel / chemistry
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology
  • Tibia / diagnostic imaging
  • Tibia / pathology
  • Titanium / chemistry
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Epoxy Compounds
  • Hydrogels
  • Luminescent Agents
  • Stainless Steel
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Gadolinium
  • Titanium