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General Orthopaedics


Current Concepts in Joint Replacement (CCJR) – Spring 2015


Recent issues related to trunionosis have created a new paradigm in choosing femoral head material in total hip arthroplasty. While many consider highly-crosslinked polyethylene (XLPE) to be the gold standard currently in acetabular liner bearing surface, the debate remains whether metal or ceramic heads are best paired with XLPE.

Wear characteristics are similar within an order of magnitude when comparing cobalt chrome femoral heads with ceramic when used in combination with XLPE. Therefore, discernable differences between the two femoral head materials with respect to outcomes would be the result of other biomechanical factors. Notably the fretting and corrosion of metal heads at the modular taper of femoral components is a serious concern and represents a significant deterrent when considering this material. The fretting corrosion that occurs with metal femoral heads has recently been well documented in multiple reports, and can be associated with adverse local tissue reactions necessitating revision hip arthroplasty. Frictional torque has recently been implicated in taper corrosion at modular junctions. In a recent simulated in vivo study, large diameter CoCr femoral heads were associated with increased frictional torque compared to smaller metal heads, supporting recent taper corrosion retrieval studies. In one recent series, a 1.1% incidence of head-neck taper corrosion with a metal head was reported and the authors recommended use of ceramic femoral heads. The notable downside of ceramic femoral heads is the implant cost and potential for fracture. However, the incidence of femoral head fracture with the newer mixed delta ceramic heads is exceptionally low and infrequent (rate 1.7 per 100,000). Furthermore, the incidence of taper corrosion is negligible with ceramic heads, making it the bearing couple of choice among many surgeons in combination with XLPE.