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8th Combined Meeting Of Orthopaedic Research Societies (CORS)



Low energy irradiation of vitamin E blended UHMWPE is feasible to fabricate total joint implants with high wear resistance and impact strength.


Irradiated ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), used in the fabrication of joint implants, has increased wear resistance. But, increased crosslinking decreases the mechanical strength of the polymer, thus limiting the crosslinking to the surface is desirable. Here, we used electron beam irradiation with low energy electrons to limit the penetration of the radiation exposure and achieve surface cross-linking.


Medical grade 0.1wt% vitamin E blended UHMWPE (GUR1050) was consolidated and irradiated using an electron beam at 0.8 and 3 MeV to 150 kGy. Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) was used from the surface along the depth at an average of 32 scans and a resolution of 4 cm−1. A transvinylene index (TVI) was calculated by normalizing the absorbance at 965 cm−1 (950–980cm−1) against 1895 cm−1 (1850 – 1985 cm−1). TVI in irradiated UHMWPE is linearly correlated with the radiation received [3]. Vitamin E indices were calculated as the ratio of the area under 1265 cm−1 (1245–1275 cm−1) normalized by the same. Pin-on-disc (POD) wear testing was conducted on cylindrical pins (9 mm dia., 13 mm length, n=3) as previously described at 2 Hz [4] for 1.2 million cycles (MC). Wear rate was measured as the linear regression of gravimetric weight change vs. number of cycles from 0.5 to 1.2 MC. Double notched IZOD impact testing was performed (63.5 × 12.7 × 6.35mm) in accordance with ASTM F648. Cubes (1 cm) from 0.1wt% blended and 150 kGy irradiated pucks (0.8 MeV) were soaked in vitamin E at 110°C for 1 hour followed by homogenization at 130°C for 48 hours.


The penetration of the electron beam for cross-linking was limited at low beam energy and cross-linking of the surface 2 mm was achieved. The wear rate of samples irradiated at 0.8 and 3 MeV was 1.12±0.15, and 0.98±0.11, respectively (p»0.5). In addition, the wear rate of the surface (0.8 MeV) irradiated UHMWPE was 0.33±0.02 mg/MC 1 mm below the surface. The impact strength of UHMWPE irradiated at 0.8 MeV was 73 kJ/m2 and 54.2 kJ/m2 for that irradiated at 3 MeV (p=0.001). Doping with vitamin E and homogenization increased the surface vitamin E concentration from undetectable levels to 0.11±0.01.


The wear rate of this surface cross-linked UHMWPE was comparable to uniformly cross-linked UHMWPEs irradiated at higher electron beam energies. Even lower wear rate subsurface suggested the feasibility of machining 1 mm from the surface in implant fabrication. Limiting cross-linking to the surface resulted in higher impact strength compared to a uniformly cross-linked UHMWPE. Vitamin E was optionally replenished by additional doping after cross-linking; an advantage of this method may be increased oxidation resistance.