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Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2006 Apr;126(3):174-80. Epub 2006 Feb 15.

Transfer of metallic debris after dislocation of ceramic femoral heads in hip prostheses.

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Department of Materials Science, University of Erlangen-Nuernberg, Martensstr. 5, 91058 Erlangen, Germany.



Main reasons for the early revision of total hip arthroplasties are aseptic loosening as a result of wear debris caused by polyethylene particles, and postoperative dislocations. In revision arthroplasty of the hip metallic deposits were frequently found on femoral heads after dislocation or repositioning in total hip arthroplasties with metal back acetabular components.


In this study we examined ceramic femoral heads from alumina-on-alumina and alumina-on-polymer pairings, respectively. All the heads resulted from revision of total hip replacement with a titanium containing acetabular component and showed metallic deposit on their surface. The metallic deposit was characterized by environmental scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and laser scanning microscopy.


The metallic deposits covered areas between 5 mm(2) and 8 cm(2) and reached a maximum height of 30 mum. They were shown to consist of titanium, and thus resulted from contact between the femoral head and the posterior part of the metal back. In case of twofold dislocated alumina-on-alumina pairings the titanium deposits showed different roughness profiles, whereas no differences were detectable for alumina-on-polymer pairings.


From the obtained results it can be concluded, that titanium deposited onto a femoral head during dislocation will be abraded within the harder alumina-on-alumina bearing couple during normal gait and will subsequently be released into the body by synovial fluid. In case of a ceramic-on-polymer bearing the deposited metal seems to be more harmful. The increased surface roughness of the femoral head within the tribological pairing probably initiates damage of the polymeric acetabular inlay and increases the wear of the bearing surface through a third-body wear mechanism resulting in the release of high amounts of PE.

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