Tribology and total hip joint replacement: Current concepts in mechanical simulation

S. Affatato, M. Spinelli, M. Zavalloni, C. Mazzega-Fabbro, M. Viceconti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interest in the rheology and effects of interacting surfaces is as ancient as man. This subject can be represented by a recently coined word: tribology. This term is derived from the Greek word "tribos" and means the "science of rubbing". Friction, lubrication, and wear mechanism in the common English language means the precise field of interest of tribology. Wear of total hip prosthesis is a significant clinical problem that involves, nowadays, a too high a number of patients. In order to acquire further knowledge on the tribological phenomena that involve hip prosthesis wear tests are conducted on employed materials to extend lifetime of orthopaedic implants. The most basic type of test device is the material wear machine, however, a more advanced one may more accurately reproduce some of the in vivo conditions. Typically, these apparatus are called simulators, and, while there is no absolute definition of a joint simulator, its description as a mechanical rig used to test a joint replacement, under conditions approximating those occurring in the human body, is acceptable. Simulator tests, moreover, can be used to conduct accelerated protocols that replicate/simulate particularly extreme conditions, thus establishing the limits of performance for the material. Simulators vary in their level of sophistication and the international literature reveals many interpretations of the design of machines used for joint replacement testing. This paper aims to review the current state of the art of the hip joint simulators worldwide. This is specified through a schematic overview by describing, in particular, constructive solutions adopted to reproduce in vivo conditions. An exhaustive commentary on the evolution and actually existing simulation standards is proposed by the authors. The need of a shared protocol among research laboratories all over the world could lead to a consensus conference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1305-1317
Number of pages13
JournalMedical Engineering and Physics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


  • Hip implants
  • Hip simulator studies
  • Machines for wear tests
  • Simulator review
  • Wear evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biophysics


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