Combined chemical and mechanical effects on free radicals in UHMWPE joints during implantation


An electron spin resonance (ESR) technique is employed to determine the free radical distribution in the articulating surfaces of retrieved acetabular cups and knee‐joint plateaus (retrieved after more than 6 years of implantation). Similar measurements made on samples prepared from cyclically stressed and unstressed cups, and on samples following oxidations in nitric acid and intralipid solutions provided sufficient data to gain more knowledge about the combined chemical and mechanical effects on PE free radicals during implantation. In UHMWPE free radicals are primarily initiated by gamma‐ray sterilization; however, during implantation, peroxy (scission type) free radicals are formed and reach a maximum concentration level (equilibrium state) due to oxidation by chemical (hemoglobin and/or synovial fluids) environment of the joints. Subsequently, due to frictional heating and stress in the loading zones, free radical reaction is accelerated and their number is reduced only in those areas. This is consistent with the observations of a temperature rise in acetabular cups during in vitro frictional wear stress tests and in vivo telemetry observations, as reported by others. Compared with the previously reported SEM micrographs the low‐free‐radical regions are correlated with high‐wear areas and the high‐free‐radical regions with the low‐wear areas. Copyright © 1991 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Publication Title

Journal of Biomedical Materials Research