Wear behaviour of cross-linked polyethylene assessed in vitro under severe conditions

Saverio Affatato, Gianluca Bersaglia, Mirko Rocchi, Paola Taddei, Concezio Fagnano, Aldo Toni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The polyethylene (PE) for hip implants presents serious clinical problems; the production of debris may induce adverse tissue reactions that may lead to extensive bone loss around the implant and consequently osteolysis and implant loosening. Several attempts have been made to improve the wear properties of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE). More recently the attention of various researchers has been focused on cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE), due to its improved wear resistance with respect to conventional UHMWPE. This study was aimed at comparing the wear performances of clinically available acetabular liners (Zimmer Inc.) made of electron beam XLPE and conventional UHMWPE. To evaluate the influence of the material properties on wear, conventional UHMWPE and XLPE acetabular cups were tested against deliberately scratched CoCrMo femoral heads (R a=0.12-0.14 μm) in a hip joint wear simulator run for 3 million cycles with bovine calf serum as lubricant. Gravimetric measurements revealed significant differences between the wear behaviours of the two sets of acetabular cups: XLPE exhibited a wear rate about 40 times lower than conventional UHMWPE. Raman spectroscopy coupled to partial least-squares analysis was used to evaluate the possible crystallinity changes induced by mechanical stress (and thus the material wear resistance): only the UHMWPE cup which showed the highest weight loss displayed significant crystallinity changes. These results were correlated to the thickness of the plasticity-induced damage layer. The wear debris produced during the tests were isolated according to a validated protocol and imaged by scanning electron microscopy. The wear particles produced by XLPE were smaller than those produced by UHMWPE; the latter were observed as fibrillar and agglomerated particles. The mean equivalent circle diameter was 0.71 and 0.26 μm for UHMWPE and XLPE, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3259-3267
Number of pages9
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


  • Conventional ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene
  • Cross-linked polyethylene
  • Hip joint simulator
  • Micro-Raman spectroscopy
  • Roughened CoCr femoral heads
  • Wear debris characterisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering


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