Abstract The medical market is a continuing success story for the application of shape memory alloy products. Increasing life expectancy and advances in surgical procedures mean that the medical market will remain an area of great opportunity for commercial applications. This paper will consider just why the shape memory effect holds so many opportunities for medical devices and will review a selection of current applications. Interventional radiology in particular has benefited from the unique properties of superelastic nitinol and this will be reviewed in detail. As well as considering the benefits of shape memory alloys in medical devices this paper will also consider the factors that impinge on the associated risk analysis of using nitinol in medical applications.