In this review, strategies for improving the antimicrobial properties of stainless steel (SS) are presented. The main focus given is to present current strategies for surface modification of SS, which alter surface characteristics in terms of surface chemistry, topography and wettability/surface charge, without influencing the bulk attributes of the material. As SS exhibits excellent mechanical properties and satisfactory biocompatibility, it is one of the most frequently used materials in medical applications. It is widely used as a material for fabricating orthopedic prosthesis, cardiovascular stents/valves and recently also for three dimensional (3D) printing of custom made implants. Despite its good mechanical properties, SS lacks desired biofunctionality, which makes it prone to bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation. Due to increased resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, it is imperative to achieve antibacterial properties of implants. Thus, many different approaches were proposed and are discussed herein. Emphasis is given on novel approaches based on treatment with highly reactive plasma, which may alter SS topography, chemistry and wettability under appropriate treatment conditions. This review aims to present and critically discuss different approaches and propose novel possibilities for surface modification of SS by using highly reactive gaseous plasma in order to obtain a desired biological response.
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