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What factors drive polyethylene wear in total knee arthroplasty?

results of a large retrieval series

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Wear of the polyethylene (PE) tibial insert of total knee arthroplasty (TKA) increases the risk of revision surgery with a significant cost burden on the healthcare system. This study quantifies wear performance of tibial inserts in a large and diverse series of retrieved TKAs to evaluate the effect of factors related to the patient, knee design, and bearing material on tibial insert wear performance.


An institutional review board-approved retrieval archive was surveyed for modular PE tibial inserts over a range of in vivo duration (mean 58 months (0 to 290)). Five knee designs, totalling 1,585 devices, were studied. Insert wear was estimated from measured thickness change using a previously published method. Linear regression statistical analyses were used to test association of 12 patient and implant design variables with calculated wear rate.


Five patient-specific variables and seven implant-specific variables were evaluated for significant association with lower insert wear rate. Six were significant when controlling for other factors: greater patient age, female sex, shorter duration in vivo, polished tray, highly cross-linked PE (HXLPE), and constrained knee design.


This study confirmed that knee wear rate increased with duration in vivo. Older patients and females had significantly lower wear rates. Polished modular tibial tray surfaces, HXLPE, and constrained TKA designs were device design factors associated with significantly reduced wear rate.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2021;103-B(11):1695–1701.

Correspondence should be sent to Barbara H. Currier. E-mail:

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