It is generally accepted that stress causes calcification in both bio-prosthetic and polyurethane heart valves. However, simple uni-axially- and bi-axially-stretched samples did not yield a feasible model for the elaboration of the stress-induced calcification. In this study, heat compaction combined with the incorporation of polyethylene has been explored. Specimens of polyurethane were solution cast onto a porous bi-axially-drawn ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene film and then heat compacted under a pressure of 18 MPa at a chosen temperature for 1.5 h. The heat-compaction-induced calcification and physical changes of the polyurethane composite were evaluated using a 28-day in vitro calcification model and Attenuated Total Reflection-Fourier Transform-Infrared (ATR-FT-IR) spectroscopy. The calcification results indicated that heat-compaction-induced calcification was double that achieved without heat compaction. Heat-compacted polyurethane composite showed higher affinity to calcium ions than the non-heat compacted sample. The ATR-FT-IR results showed that the heat-compaction-induced physical changes include distortions of polymeric molecules and permanent changes of microstructures. The distortions of polymeric molecules could be deteriorated in contact with different media. The relaxation of the stressed structures of the polyether moiety might serve as a calcium trap and a heterogeneous nucleation site for calcification. The permanent changes of microstructures resulted from high distortions also served as affinity sites attracting calcification.
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