Crosslink density, oxidation and chain scission in retrieved, highly cross-linked UHMWPE tibial bearings

Steven D. Reinitz, Barbara H. Currier, Rayna A. Levine, Douglas W. Van Citters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Irradiated, thermally stabilized, highly cross-linked UHMWPE bearings have demonstrated superior wear performance and improved invitro oxidation resistance compared with terminally gamma-sterilized bearings, yet retrieval analysis reveals unanticipated invivo oxidation in these materials despite fewer or no measurable free radicals. There has been little evidence to date that the oxidation mechanism in thermally stabilized materials is the same as that in conventional materials, and so it is unknown whether oxidation in these materials is leading to chain scission and a degradation of mechanical properties, molecular weight, and crosslink density. The aim of this study was to determine whether measured invivo oxidation in retrieved, highly cross-linked tibial bearings corresponds with a decreasing crosslink density. Analysis of three tibial bearing materials revealed that crosslink density decreased following invivo duration, and that the change in crosslink density was strongly correlated with oxidation. The results suggest that oxidation in highly cross-linked materials is causing chain scissions that may, in time, impact the material properties. If invivo oxidation continues over longer durations, there is potential for a clinically significant degradation of mechanical properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4436-4440
Number of pages5
Issue number15
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Arthroplasty
  • Cross-linking
  • FTIR
  • Knee replacement
  • Oxidation
  • Polyethylene


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