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7th Congress of the European Federation of National Associations of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Lisbon - 4-7 June, 2005


Wear and wear debris induced osteolysis is recognised as a major cause of long term failure in hip prostheses. Historically ultra high molecular weight polyethylene acetabular cups produced micron and submicron wear particles which accumulated in peri prosthetic tissues, and stimulated macrophages to generate wear debris induced osteolysis. Acceleration of wear and osteolysis was caused in historical materials by oxidative degradation of the polyethylene following gamma irradiation in air, and by third body damage and scratching of metallic femoral heads. Current conventional ultra high molecular weight polyethylene cups are irradiated in an inert atmosphere to reduce oxidative degradation and are articulated against ceramic femoral heads to reduce third body wear. More recently modified highly cross linked polyethylene has been developed, and while these materials produce a four to five fold reduction in wear volume the wear particles have been found to be more reactive, resulting in only a two fold reduction in functional osteolytic potential. The question remains as to whether this performance is adequate for high demand patients, particularly if larger diameter femoral heads are to be used.

Recent interest in improved function, stability and reducing dislocations has generated interest in using larger diameter heads and hard on hard bearings.

Alumina ceramic on ceramic bearings have shown a one hundred fold decrease in wear compared to highly cross linked polyethylene materials, and cell culture studies have shown the wear particles to be more bio-compatible and less osteolytic potential.

Metal on metal bearings also produced very low wear rates compared to polyethylene. The wear particles are very small, 10 to 50 nanometers in size, some concern remains about the systematic release of metallic ions. These are lubrication sensitive bearings, and they unlike polyethylene wear decreases as the head size increases due to improved lubrication. Size 36 mm metal bearings are now commonplace for total joint replacements with even larger head sizes being used for surface replacement solutions.

The demand for increased function and improved stability is leading to increased use of hard on hard bearings with larger diameter heads.

Theses abstracts were prepared by Professor Roger Lemaire. Correspondence should be addressed to EFORT Central Office, Freihofstrasse 22, CH-8700 Küsnacht, Switzerland.