Estimation of the minimum number of test specimens for fatigue testing of acrylic bone cement


In the literature on fatigue testing of acrylic bone cements, data sets of various sizes have been used in different test series for the same cement formulation. There are two important consequences of this situation. First, it means that some test series last much longer than others, with all the implications for the cost of testing. Second, it makes drawing conclusions about the fatigue performance of a cement, based on the results of different literature series, a problematic issue. Clearly then, a recommendation as to what should be the minimum number of test specimens to use that would allow for confidence in the results of the statistical treatment of the test results (Gmin) would be desirable. In the present work, a method that could be used to culminate in such a recommendation is described. This method involves (i) obtaining experimental fatigue test results and (ii) analyzing those results using the Weibull probability distribution function and other statistical methods. This methodology is illustrated using fatigue life results obtained from uniaxial tension-compression fatigue tests on specimens fabricated from the polymerizing dough of one commercially available acrylic bone cement. For a tolerable error of 5%, we estimated Gmin to be either 7 (if the fatigue life results are treated using the two-parameter Weibull distribution function) or 11 (if the fatigue life results are treated using the three-parameter Weibull distribution function). To be on the conservative side, we therefore recommend that Gmin be 11. Three key limitations of the methodology presented here are discussed. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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