Diffraction enhanced imaging (DEI) uses refraction of x-rays at edges, which allows pronounced visualization of material borders and rejects scattering which often obscures edges and blurs images. Here, the first evidence is presented that, using DEI, a destruction-free evaluation of the quality of integration of metal implants into bone is possible. Experiments were performed in rabbits and sheep with model implants to investigate the option for DEI as a tool in implant research. The results obtained from DEI were compared to conventional histology obtained from the specimens. DE images allow the identification of the quality of ingrowth of bone into the hydroxyapatite layer of the implant. Incomplete integration of the implant with a remaining gap of less than 0.3 mm caused the presence of a highly refractive edge at the implant/bone border. In contrast, implants with bone fully grown onto the surface did not display a refractive signal. Therefore, the refractive signal could be utilized to diagnose implant healing and/or loosening. © 2006 IOP Publishing Ltd.