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Articulating polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) spacers may have an immunomodulating effect on synovial tissue

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Tissue responses to debris formed by abrasion of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) spacers at two-stage revision arthroplasty for prosthetic joint infection are not well described. We hypothesised that PMMA debris induces immunomodulation in periprosthetic tissues.

Patients and Methods

Samples of tissue were taken during 35 two-stage revision arthroplasties (nine total hip and 26 total knee arthroplasties) in patients whose mean age was 67 years (44 to 85). Fourier transform infrared microscopy was used to confirm the presence of PMMA particles. Histomorphometry was performed using Sudan Red and Haematoxylin-Eosin staining. CD-68, CD-20, CD-11(c), CD-3 and IL-17 antibodies were used to immunophenotype the inflammatory cells. All slides were scored semi-quantitatively using the modified Willert scoring system.


The mean CD-68 scores did not show any significant change during the six weeks between the stages. Perivascular and diffuse scores showed significant difference in CD-3, CD-20, CD-11(c) and IL-17. At the time of re-implantation, a shift in the pattern of the expression of dendritic cells towards a perivascular arrangement and towards the periphery of PMMA particles was observed. Positive microbiological cultures were found at the time of re-implantation in three patients. Five further revisions were required for other reasons.


Our results represent a biological reaction of the synovial tissues to spacers with a less diffuse expression of dendritic cells and an increased expression of perivascular lymphocytes. The use of spacers in two-stage revision for infection probably induces an immunomodulation of synovial tissues.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2016;98-B:1062–8.

Correspondence should be sent to Prof C. H. Lohmann; e-mail:

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