The Taper Disaster - How Could it Happen? HIP International. 2015;25(4):339-346.

The Taper Disaster – How Could it Happen?

Morlock MM.

Corrosion of metallic implants in contact with body fluids is unavoidable, especially at interfaces where movement occurs or in gaps. Corrosion became clinically relevant with the introduction of large modular metal-on-metal total hip joint articulations (MoM THA) early in the 21st century. This review attempts to summarise the scientific knowledge about taper problems available at the time of introduction of these bearings, why this “disaster” could happen. It is speculated that changes to the taper connection made in the 1990s to increase the range of motion with small heads (28 and 32 mm) reduced the mechanical strength of this connection, which did not matter for small heads. With the use of large and very large metal heads in MoM articulations, which have a larger lever arm and can generate high friction in unfavourable situations, suddenly the taper interface exhibited corrosion problems on a previously unknown scale. It is speculated that due to the higher mechanical loading with larger heads, the taper connection became less forgiving with respect to assembly conditions, contamination, manufacturing tolerances and other factors, which are yet not known. Since no major clinical problems had been reported before the introduction of these bearings and the pre-clinical testing was very successful, the disaster took its course. The patient-implant-surgeon system is a very complex intrinsically hazardous system. Pre-clinical testing addresses few and defined factors and such, good results cannot be directly transferred to the clinical reality. A controlled stepwise introduction of innovations is required.

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