Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research: January 2015 - Volume 473 - Issue 1 - p 220–225 doi: 10.1007/s11999-014-3648-0 Symposium: 2014 Knee Society Proceedings

Does Increased Topside Conformity in Modular Total Knee Arthroplasty Lead to Increased Backside Wear?

Schwarzkopf, Ran, MD, MSc1,a; Scott, Richard, D., MD2; Carlson, Evan, M., MSc3; Currier, John, H., MSc3

Background Modular metal-backed tibia components allow surgeons intraoperative flexibility. Although it is known that modular tibia components introduce the possibility for backside wear resulting from relative motion between the polyethylene insert and the tibial baseplate, it is not known to what degree variability in the conformity of the tibial polyethylene liner itself might contribute to backside wear.


Questions/purposes The purpose of this study was to determine whether a flat, cruciate-retaining tibial polyethylene bearing generates less backside wear than a more conforming (curved) tibial polyethylene bearing in an analysis of specimens explanted during revision surgery.


Methods The study included 70 total knee inserts explanted at revision surgery, all implanted and explanted by the same surgeon. Two different cruciate-retaining insert options in an otherwise similar knee system were used: one with a curved-on-flat (17) articular geometry and one with a highly conforming curved-on-curved design (53); both groups were sequential cohorts. The composite backside wear depth for the insert as well as the volume of backside wear was measured and compared between groups.


Results The median linear backside-normalized wear for the posterior lipped inserts was 0.0063 mm/year (range, 0-0.085 mm/year), which was lower than for the curved inserts at 0.05 mm/year (range, 0.00003-0.14 mm/year) (p < 0.001). The median calculated volumetric backside-normalized wear for the posterior lipped inserts was 14.2 mm3/year (range, 0-282.8 mm3/year) compared with 117 mm3/year (range, 2.1-312 mm3/year) for the curved inserts (p < 0.001).


Conclusions In this retrieval study, more conforming tibial inserts demonstrated more backside-normalized wear than the flatter designs. This suggests that in this modular total knee arthroplasty design, higher articular conformity to address the issues of high bearing contact stress comes at a price: increased torque transmitted to the backside insert-to-tray interface. We suggest further work be undertaken to examine newer insert designs to evaluate if our conclusions hold true with the newer generation locking mechanism, tibial tray finish and polyethylene designs, as more highly conforming tibial inserts are introduced into the market.


Level of Evidence Level III, therapeutic study. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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