Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®

, Volume 469, Issue 8, pp 2286–2293 | Cite as

Vitamin E-stabilized UHMWPE for Total Joint Implants: A Review

  • Pierangiola BraccoEmail author
  • Ebru Oral
Symposium: UHMWPE for Arthroplasty: From Powder to Debris



Osteolysis due to wear of UHMWPE limits the longevity of joint arthroplasty. Oxidative degradation of UHMWPE gamma-sterilized in air increases its wear while decreasing mechanical strength. Vitamin E stabilization of UHMWPE was proposed to improve oxidation resistance while maintaining wear resistance and fatigue strength.


We reviewed the preclinical research on the development and testing of vitamin E-stabilized UHMWPE with the following questions in mind: (1) What is the rationale behind protecting irradiated UHMWPE against oxidation by vitamin E? (2) What are the effects of vitamin E on the microstructure, tribologic, and mechanical properties of irradiated UHMWPE? (3) Is vitamin E expected to affect the periprosthetic tissue negatively?


We performed searches in PubMed, Scopus, and Science Citation Index to review the development of vitamin E-stabilized UHMWPEs and their feasibility as clinical implants.


The rationale for using vitamin E in UHMWPE was twofold: improving oxidation resistance of irradiated UHMWPEs and fatigue strength of irradiated UHMWPEs with an alternative to postirradiation melting. Vitamin E-stabilized UHMWPE showed oxidation resistance superior to that of irradiated UHMWPEs with detectable residual free radicals. It showed equivalent wear and improved mechanical strength compared to irradiated and melted UHMWPE. The biocompatibility was confirmed by simulating elution, if any, of the antioxidant from implants.


Vitamin E-stabilized UHMWPE offers a joint arthroplasty technology with good mechanical, wear, and oxidation properties.

Clinical Relevance

Vitamin E-stabilized, irradiated UHMWPEs were recently introduced clinically. The rationale behind using vitamin E and in vitro tests comparing its performance to older materials are of great interest for improving longevity of joint arthroplasties.


Fatigue Strength UHMWPE Wear Particle Periprosthetic Tissue Improve Oxidation Resistance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This review originates from the work on vitamin E-stabilized UHMWPEs performed by the authors in collaboration with numerous researchers. The authors thank their collaborators and especially their mentors, Drs. Luigi Costa and Orhun Muratoglu, respectively.


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Copyright information

© The Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons® 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Chimica IFM and NIS Centre of ExcellenceUniversità di TorinoTorinoItaly
  2. 2.Harris Orthopaedic LaboratoryMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA

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