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Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2009 Dec;467(12):3290-6. doi: 10.1007/s11999-009-1038-9. Epub 2009 Aug 19.

Femoral head size and wear of highly cross-linked polyethylene at 5 to 8 years.

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  • 1Chapel Hill Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine, 101 Conner Drive, Suite 200, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, USA.


Wear of highly cross-linked polyethylene is reportedly independent of head size. To confirm that observation we asked in our population whether head size related to wear with one type of electron beam highly cross-linked polyethylene. Of 146 hips implanted, we evaluated complete clinical and radiographic data for 90 patients (102 hips or 70%). The minimum followup was 5 years (mean, 5.7 years; range, 5-8 years). The head size was selected intraoperatively based on the size of the acetabular component and presumed risk of dislocation. Polyethylene wear measurements were performed in one experienced laboratory using the method of Martell et al. There was no hip with pelvic or femoral osteolysis. The median linear wear rate was 0.028 mm/year (mean, 0.04 mm/year), and the median volumetric wear rate was 25.6 mm(3)/year (mean, 80.5 mm(3)/year). Median total volumetric wear was 41.0 mm(3) (mean, 98.5 mm(3)). We found no association between femoral head size and the linear wear rate, but observed an association between larger (36- and 40-mm) head size and volumetric wear rate and total volumetric wear. Although the linear wear rate of polyethylene was not related to femoral head diameter, there was greater volumetric wear (156.6 mm(3)/year) with the 36- and 40-mm heads. Pending long-term studies of large head sizes, we advise caution in using larger femoral heads in young or active patients and in those with a low risk of dislocation.


Level IV, therapeutic study. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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