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Phys Med Biol. 2008 Mar 7;53(5):1277-93. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/53/5/008. Epub 2008 Feb 13.

Lubrication and friction prediction in metal-on-metal hip implants.

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  • 1Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.


A general methodology of mixed lubrication analysis and friction prediction for a conforming spherical bearing in hip implants was developed, with particular reference to a typical metal-on-metal hip replacement. Experimental measurement of frictional torque for a similar implant was carried out to validate the theoretical prediction. A ball-in-socket configuration was adopted to represent the articulation between the femoral head and the acetabular cup under cyclic operating conditions of representative load and motion. The mixed lubrication model presented in this study was first applied to identify the contact characteristics on the bearing surfaces, consisting of both fluid-film and boundary lubricated regions. The boundary lubricated contact was assumed to occur when the predicted fluid film thickness was less than a typical boundary protein layer absorbed on the bearing surfaces. Subsequently, the friction was predicted from the fluid-film lubricated region with viscous shearing due to both Couette and Poiseuille flows and the boundary protein layer contact region with a constant coefficient of friction. The predicted frictional torque of the typical metal-on-metal hip joint implant was compared with the experimental measurement conducted in a functional hip simulator and a reasonably good agreement was found. The mixed lubrication regime was found to be dominant for the conditions considered. Although the percentage of the boundary lubricated region was quite small, the corresponding contribution to friction was quite large and the resultant friction factor was quite high.

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