, Volume 13, Issue 12, pp 1135-1141

Monitoring the setting of calcium-based bone cements using pulse-echo ultrasound

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We present a new technique, based on pulse-echo ultrasound, for monitoring the entire setting process of injectable bone cement. This research has been motivated by the lack of satisfying standards. The main problem with existing standards is the subjectivity, which leads to poor reproducibility. Because of this the results are not comparable between different research groups. A strong advantage with the proposed technique is that if low-intensity ultrasound is used, it provides a non-destructive analysis method. Once the cement paste has been applied to the measurement cell, no manipulation is needed throughout the entire setting process. The problem of the ultrasound affecting the setting of certain cement materials has been investigated, and solutions are discussed. The propagation of ultrasound is temperature-dependent, and therefore a technique for automatic compensation for temperature variations is discussed briefly. The testing was performed on α-calcium sulfate hemihydrate (CSH) and mixtures of CSH and α-tricalcium phosphate (α-TCP). The results show that the acoustic properties of the cement are strongly correlated with the setting time, the density, and the adiabatic bulk modulus. The measured initial and final setting times agree well with the Gillmore needles standard. An important difference compared to the standards, is that the technique presented here allows the user to follow the entire setting process on-line.