The biomedical industry shows increasing interest in the joining of dissimilar metals, especially with the aim of developing devices that combine different mechanical and corrosive properties. As an example, nickel titanium shape memory alloys joined to stainless steel are very promising for new invasive surgery devices, such as guidewires. A fracture mechanics study of such joined wires was carried out using in situ tensile testing and scanning electron microscopy imaging combined with chemical analysis, and revealed an unusual fracture behaviour at superelastic stress. Nanoindentation was performed to determine the mechanical properties of the welded area, which were used as an input for mechanical computation in order to understand this unexpected behaviour. Automated image correlation allowed verification of the mechanical modelling and a reduced stress strain model is proposed to explain the special fracture mechanism. This study reveals the fact that tremendous property changes at the interface between the NiTi base wire and the weld area have more impact on the ultimate tensile strength than the chemical composition variation across the welded area. (C) 2011 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.