Volume 25, Issue 2 (March 1997)
The Significance of Nonlinear Motion in the Wear Screening of Orthopaedic Implant Materials
Linear reciprocating pin-on-plate-type wear testing has been a standard technique for the screening of orthopaedic implant materials since the early 1980s. This investigation compares a wear screening technique based on linear motion with a modern hip joint simulator based on multi-axial motion. Two groups of differently sterilized UHMWPE samples were tested. The first group of samples was sterilized by ethylene oxide (EtO) gas that caused no structural changes in the UHMWPE. The second group of samples was sterilized in nitrogen by gamma-irradiation and then subjected to a stabilization treatment that resulted in a significant level of crosslinking in the UHMWPE. When tested on the linear reciprocating wear machine, the EtO sterilized specimens (non-crosslinked linear polyethylene) showed an approximately 30% lower wear rate than the gamma-irradiated and stabilized specimens (crosslinked polyethylene). When tested on the hip simulator, the EtO sterilized specimens exhibited two to three times higher wear rates than the gamma irradiated and stabilized specimens. The ranking of wear resistance obtained with the hip simulator was strikingly different than that obtained with the linear reciprocating wear machine. This study indicates that screening wear machines based on linear motion do not correlate with multi-axial joint simulators and may produce misleading results in the prediction of clinical wear performance of UHMWPE bearing materials.