The Journal of Arthroplasty, Volume 34, Issue 12, 3088 - 3093

Reasons for Revision, Oxidation, and Damage Mechanisms of Retrieved Vitamin E-Stabilized Highly Crosslinked Polyethylene in Total Knee Arthroplasty

Spece, Hannah et al.


In order to improve oxidation resistance, antioxidants such as vitamin-E are added to polyethylene used in the bearing surfaces of orthopedic components. Currently, little is known about the efficacy of this treatment in vivo. This study therefore reports on the reasons for revision, surface damage mechanisms, and oxidation of retrieved vitamin E-stabilized highly crosslinked polyethylene (HXLPE) for total knee arthroplasty.


We examined 103 retrieved knee inserts fabricated from vitamin E (VE)-stabilized HXLPE and 67 fabricated from remelted HXLPE as a control. The implantation times were 1.2 ± 1.3 and 1.5 ± 1.3 years for the VE and control cohorts, respectively. The inserts were evaluated for 7 surface damage mechanisms using a semiquantitative scoring method and analyzed for oxidation using Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy. Reasons for revision were also assessed using operative notes created at time of retrieval.


Both groups were revised primarily for instability, infection, and loosening. Burnishing, pitting, and scratching were the most common damage mechanisms observed, with the VE cohort demonstrating less surface damage than the control. Measured oxidation for the cohort was low, with a median oxidation index of 0.09 ± .05 for the articulating surface, 0.05 ± 0.06 for the backside, 0.08 ± 0.06 for the anterior/posterior surfaces, and 0.08 ± 0.05 for the stabilizing post. As compared to the control cohort, oxidation tended to be less for the VE group at the articulating ( P < .001) and backside ( P = .003) surfaces, although the median differences were minimal and may not be clinically significant.


The results indicate positive fatigue damage resistance and oxidation resistance for the retrieved VE-stabilized total knee arthroplasty inserts.

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