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British Orthopaedic Research Society (BORS)



Total hip prostheses which use a ceramic head within a metal liner are a relatively recent introduction. As such, survivorship rates from independent centres alongside explant analysis are rare. The early experience with this novel ceramic-on-metal (CoM) bearing couple is reported.

Methods and Materials

All CoM hips implanted between 2008 and 2009 at a single hospital by a single surgeon were reviewed. Radiographs were analysed using EBRA software to determine acetabular cup inclination and anteversion angles. Blood metal ion concentrations were measured using inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICPMS). Explants were measured for bearing surface and taper wear using a high precision co-ordinate measuring machine. The roughness of the articulating surfaces was measured with a non-contact profilometer.


In 54 patients 56 CoM hips were implanted. Mean (range) age was 64 years (34-87). There were 41 females and 15 males. Patients were followed-up for a mean of 1.5 years. Three hips were revised at mean of 1.2 years (2 female, 1 male) with a further 3 listed for revision under 1.5 years giving an overall failure rate of 10.7%. All these patients reported with pain. X-rays of failed devices showed a characteristic pattern of femoral stem loosening. Serum cobalt and chromium were less than 2 micrograms/L. Explant analysis of the three revised hips showed wear at the liner rim in each case. In two of these cases the wear extended completely around the circumference. The wear volumes were 4.1, 2.0 and 2.3mm3 respectively. The ceramic heads were unworn but some transfer of metal could be seen visually. There was no significant wear or deformation at the taper junctions. Typical ceramic head roughness values were 3nm Ra and so most of the surface area of the heads remained in a pristine condition.


The very high early failure rate using COM is concerning. Explant analysis suggests equatorial contacts with propagation of high frictional forces distally. These forces may have caused early loosening of the femoral stems. Orthopaedic surgeons need to be aware of this new mechanism of failure which is associated with low metal ions.