Corrosion at the Cone/Taper Interface Leads to Failure of Large-diameter Metal-on-metal Total Hip Arthroplasties
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Metal-on-metal (MoM) THAs have reduced wear rates compared with metal-on-polyethylene. However, elevated serum metal ion levels and pseudotumors have been reported in large MoM articulations.
We therefore determined (1) if corrosion occurred at the cone/taper interface leading to instability in patients with large-diameter THAs; (2) how patients presented clinically and radiographically; (3) if adverse periprosthetic tissue reactions occurred; (4) whether metal was released from the implants into the periprosthetic tissues; and (5) if head size correlated with metal release.
We reviewed 114 patients who had revisions of large-diameter head MoM articulations. Mean time of implantation was 46 months. To identify adverse reactions and particle load, tissues were stained by hematoxylin and eosin and CD3/CD20/CD68 antibodies. Periprosthetic tissues were analyzed for metal content and distribution in different regions. Electrochemical reactions between the stem and adapter were investigated by a minicell electrode.
Electrochemical studies on the stem and the head adapter showed a risk for galvanic corrosion. Ninety-four percent of patients had instability at the cone/taper interface. All patients presented with early clinical symptoms; 59 patients had radiographic signs of loosening. One hundred four patients had foreign body reactions and necrosis. The largest amounts of metal released were titanium or iron. We found no correlation between head size and metal ion release.
These findings suggest that in modular cone/taper connections, friction of the MoM articulations may cause failure of the cone/taper interface leading to galvanic corrosion and loosening. It is unclear whether the design of this MoM system provides sufficient stability at the taper.
KeywordsHead Size Foreign Body Reaction Groin Pain Galvanic Corrosion Periprosthetic Tissue
We thank Dr. B. Feuerstein and Dr. G. Krause for technical support in the analysis of metal contents, Mrs. Carolin Hertzsch for help with the histological stainings, Dr. F. Awiszus for statistical analyses, and Dr. D. Brauers for providing demographic data of the patients.
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