The purpose of the present study was to compare the wear behavior of ceramic-on-vitamin-E-diffused crosslinked polyethylene (Vit-E XLPE) hip bearings employing the gold standard oxide ceramic, zirconia (ZrO2)-toughened alumina (Al2O3) (ZTA, BIOLOX®delta) and a new non-oxide ceramic, silicon nitride (Si3N4, MC2®). In vitro wear test was performed using a 12-station hip joint simulator. The test was carried out by applying the kinematic inputs and outputs as recommended by ISO 14242-1:2012. Vitamin-E-diffused crosslinked polyethylene (Vit-E XLPE) acetabular liners (E1®) were coupled with Ø28-mm ZTA and Si3N4 femoral heads. XLPE liner weight loss over 5 million cycles (Mc) of testing was compared between the two different bearing couples. Surface topography, phase contents, and residual stresses were analyzed by contact profilometer and Raman microspectroscopy. Vit-E XLPE liners coupled with Si3N4 heads produced slightly lower wear rates than identical liners with ZTA heads. The mean wear rates (corrected for fluid absorption) of liners coupled with ZTA and Si3N4 heads were 0.53 ± 0.24 and 0.49 ± 0.23 mg/Mc after 5 Mc of simulated gait, respectively. However, after wear testing, the ZTA heads retained a smoother topography and showed fewer surface stresses than the Si3N4 ones. Note that no statistically significant differences were found in the above comparisons. This study suggests that the tribochemically formed soft silica layer on the Si3N4 heads may have reduced friction and slightly lowered the wear of the Vit-E XLPE liners. Considering also that the toughness of Si3N4 is superior to ZTA, the present wear data represent positive news in the future development of long-lasting hip components.
- Silicon Nitride
- hip simulator
- raman microspectroscopy
- vitamin-E-diffused crosslinked polyethylene