Abstract

Replacement hip arthroplasty with the use of ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene for the cup articulating with a metal head has provided a low friction arthroplasty with years of success. However, the search for improved materials and designs for articulating surfaces continues. The use of metallic heads articulating with metallic cups is now being reconsidered for total hip replacements. Success will be enhanced if wear and corrosion of the articulating surfaces can be kept below that of the metal on ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene couple. Concern has been raised about the release, and biologic fate, of metal species from corrosion and wear. Titanium alloys have been shown to have limitations as an articulating surface showing significant wear, and the alloy per se should not be considered for wear couples in total hip replacements. The cobalt chromium alloys are known to have reasonable wear and corrosion properties and continue to be evaluated. The issue of cobalt chromium wear and corrosion products and how this relates to the biologic performance of total hip replacement devices is reviewed. Under the condition of wear as currently experienced at the articulating surfaces of cobalt chromium alloys and ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, the amount of metallic products transferred to the tissues is sufficiently low to be well tolerated by the biologic system. Nickel and cobaltions are rapidly transported from the implant site and eliminated in the urine. Chromium is stored in the tissue and eliminated more slowly. The issue of host hypersensitivity to these elements remains of concern. All 3 elements, in ionic form, are known to cause contact dermatitis. Untoward biologic reactions, including hypersensitivity, should be minimized if wear and corrosion phenomena are minimized.

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