/Edit : so, I would like to create character which is supposed to have some metal grafted under his skin, but by under his skin I mean straight under, like a second layer. This is supposed to be like a metal armor placed under his skin which covers it. With the answers I received I will go for titanium, and the "armor" would be separated in many pieces so that the person can still move and doesn't end up like immobile or stuck..

Does it sounds possible and could this implant cause some sides effects even if it's made of titanium like infections? I also wonder how this could not move onto his body, would it be possible to fix it to some bones?

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    $\begingroup$ Simple metal plate would make him immobile, right? And infections are threat when you implant. Once healed, bacteria won't have a way in. What kind of metal is it? And how would it work? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 29 '17 at 8:39
  • $\begingroup$ skin doesn't grow on metal $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Oct 29 '17 at 10:13
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    $\begingroup$ @user44272 Any solid plate of metal under the skin would make you immobile. You would need multiple plates with some form of hinging system around the joints in order to make movement possible. Without knowledge of which metal this is pretty difficult to answer. For example, something like lead would cause different side effects ti iron which would be different again to silver. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Oct 29 '17 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ Another thing to consider, since this is intended to be used as armor: 90% of the utility of armor is to protect the integrity of the skin. Intact skin is your best defense against infection. This particular person will be taking weapon thrusts, cuts, slashes & bashes directly on the skin. The bones and organs will be somewhat protected by the armor, but the skin will be shredded! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 29 '17 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ You might find Lessons in writing Questions for future posts. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Oct 29 '17 at 15:16

I am going to do a straight Wikipedia dump. Maybe somebody can expand this to an actual answer?

On side effects.

Body piercing is an invasive procedure with some risks, including allergic reaction, infection, excessive scarring and unanticipated physical injuries, but such precautions as sanitary piercing procedures and careful aftercare are emphasized to minimize the likelihood of encountering serious problems. The healing time required for a body piercing may vary widely according to placement, from as little as a month for some genital piercings to as much as two full years for the navel.

For doing similar invasive procedure on the entire body, you can scale up all these issues by an order of magnitude. Say an allergic reaction would probably spread to entire body, which is not healthy. Similarly an infection would probably spread under the skin and be very difficult to get rid of without removing the metal surgically.

Main new issue would probably be the added mass stretching the skin and impeding mobility. But you can just assume the armor was properly designed so that it doesn't impede movement too much (NOT PLATE ARMOR) and is properly supported. Most real armor was after all. Still I think you should expect chronic pain to be a real possibility.

Also on subdermal implants specifically

Subdermal implants, being similar to plastic surgery, have more risks than other kinds of body modification. Any time that the human body is opened, it must be performed in a sterile environment, in order to prevent infection. This has become a major source of controversy regarding subdermal implants.

Just a reminder. I doubt anyone would actually try to implant an entire armor without a sterile operating room, but still...


It wasn't asked in the question, but the materials chosen obviously are one of the major factors determining how long the implants stay compatible.

Of interest here are the sections about the steel and titanium alloys used for surgical implants.

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  • $\begingroup$ @user44272 9n Stack Exchange, you don't post individual thanks comments. Instead, upvote the post. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Oct 29 '17 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ Although laudatory praise is welcome in addition. $\endgroup$ – Willk Oct 29 '17 at 16:27

I will suggest that even using plates would produce a shearing/pinching action which would either cut the skin caught in the folds or any nerves or blood supply to the skin.

And has been pointed out elsewhere, since skin is living tissue, it is constantly replaced and therefore needs a blood supply.

Take a page from Midieval nights' armor. Use chain mail. The links allow full mobility, and provide a matrix for the skin to grow on. The links would therefore become integral with the flesh and the skin.

Alternatively, weaving or knitting steel fiber into a mesh would do the same thing.

They use similar techniques for making lightweight clothing body armor. Far more effective than just plates.

Perhaps with some stem cell manipulation, one could place such a layer on top of existing intact skin, and then graft and grow another layer of skin on top of this, so surgery would not be necessary. If you were to make this second skin more like leather than human skin, bonus.

But having skin exposed on the top layer still provides an opportunity for bleeding.

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The issue here: what holds these plates in place?

Metal pieces are routinely used to reinforce / augment / substitute for bone. Plates to replace pieces of skull are the type that comes to mind. Here is an image of a man who has a plate instead of the front of his skull.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1218501/Pensioner-wore-metal-plate-50-years-skull-removed-car-accident-astounds-doctors--growing-new-one.html plate for skull

This works because the metal is firmly affixed to bone and the bone is immobile. The bone has over it not only the skin, but all the other subcutaneous structures: nerves, vessels, fat, muscle. The metal augments the bone but does not protect the rest.

A problem with having the metal unaffixed to bone is that it will not stay in place. Most people who have loose pieces of metal in the body are soldiers who have been hit by shrapnel. My mom tells stories of a WW1 vet uncle who would have his wife pick out pieces from his back as they emerge. Googling it up I found this witty and horrifying blog from an Israeli terror bomb survivor.


But enough of the bad stuff, now it is time for what makes shrapnel fun. After it goes in (not the fun part), it comes out! All by itself! What I have learned is that shrapnel often slowly but surely works its way up to the surface and is expelled from the body. Every day I check my body for objects which, like lounge lizards slinking out late at night from a singles event, are starting to emerge. I then do the following:

I examine the item, and try to guess what it is. Metal? Glass? Plastic? I brush it gently with my fingers, to see if it will dislodge. If it does, and it isn’t really, really teensy-weensy and non-impressive, and if it doesn’t fall from my finger onto the floor and get lost, I put it into my “Official Machane Yehuda Bombing Shrapnel Collection Test-Tube”. If it doesn’t dislodge, I gently feel the area around the shrapnel to check for swelling, edges, etc. This gives me some indication as to the size of the piece, and whether it is going to require medical assistance to remove. Size and/or swelling be damned, I try to remove the item myself. I jiggle it a bit, push around it like you do with splinters and try to pull it out with my eyebrow tweezers. I smack myself on the hand and tell myself to stop playing with the shrapnel and to let it come out on its own. Bad BAD Gila!!!!! If my cooler friends are around (cooler being defined as anyone who find this whole process fascinating as opposed to disgusting”), I call them over, and show them. If no friends are present, I make a mental note to show them the next time I see them. I put a glop of iodine ointment on the area and cover it with gauze and tape. The combination of iodine ointment, gauze and tape is wonderful, and has become my standard medical treatment for just about everything. Every day is a new adventure as I find all sorts of foreign objects emerging from my body.

I think this would be the fate of your augmented soldier with metal under the skin. The metal would migrate around and work its way out.

Last: the prospect of using an unanchored piece of metal as armor. What happens if this metal gets hit? Will it not be driven by the force deeper into the body? These are not large pieces and so will not meet much resistance from deeper structures.

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    $\begingroup$ Shrapnel and subdermal implants work differently. Implants go between layers while shrapnel generally goes thru them, this makes a difference, ie. implants are very unlikely to be pushed out thru the skin naturally, while for shrapnel that is likely result of healing. You are absolutely right to stress the problem with "unaffixed metal" though, in my own answer I kind of assumed nobody would be dumb enough to do armor that way, but I really really should have made it explicit beyond a small mention of "assuming it is properly designed". $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Oct 29 '17 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ I just did not feel comfortable about going to details of how a subdermal armor should be designed and why when that was not what the question was about. And giving detailed description of armor would kind of defeat the point of giving a "Wikipedia dump", anyway. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Oct 29 '17 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Ville Niemi: I had not heard of a "wikipedia dump" before this. $\endgroup$ – Willk Oct 29 '17 at 21:54

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