Postmortem Study of Femoral Osteolysis Associated with Metal- on - Metal Articulation in Total Hip Replacement: An Analysis of Nine Cases

Huber, Monika; Reinisch, Georg; Zenz, Peter; Zweymüller, Karl; Lintner, Felix
July 2010
Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, American Volume;Jul2010, Vol. 92-A Issue 8, p1720
Academic Journal
Background: Improved metal-on-metal articulations were reintroduced in total hip replacement to avoid the osteolysis sometimes seen with conventional ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene bearings. Osteolysis and local lymphocytic infiltration have been reported at revision of some metal-on-metal devices. We report similar and additional results in a study of second-generation metal-on-metal hip implants retrieved post mortem. Methods: Components and surrounding tissues were collected post mortem from seven patients with nine total hip replacements (Zweymüller SL stem with an Alloclassic cup) with Metasul metal-on-metal articulations. All available patient information was recorded. Radiographs of the hips were evaluated for osteolysis. Sections of joint capsule as well as of the femoral implant with surrounding bone were reviewed, and energy-dispersive x-ray analysis was used to evaluate the composition of wear products. The amount of wear was measured for each component (nine femoral heads and eight cup inserts), when possible, by a coordinate measurement machine with use of the dimensional method. Results: The patients died between three and ten years after arthroplasty, and six of the seven were asymptomatic at the time of death. One patient, with the highest rate of total wear (i.e., wear of femoral head and acetabular cup; 7.6 μm/yr), had increasing hip pain for one year, and histological analysis confirmed the radiographic findings of osteolysis. For two other patients, histological analysis confirmed the radiographic findings of asymptomatic osteolysis. For three patients, histological analysis revealed osteolysis that had escaped conventional radiographic analysis. Joint capsule tissue showed evidence of metallosis in all hips and local lymphocytic infiltration in eight hips. Energy-dispersive x-ray analysis revealed elements attributable to CoCrMo alloy in all hips and traces of corrosion products in three hips. Conclusions: The postmortem findings of osteolysis and/or lymphocytic infiltration associated with eight clinically well- functioning, low wear devices (a total wear rate of <4 μm/yr) suggest there may be frequent, unappreciated femoral bone loss and local immunological response in patients with second-generation metal-on-metal hip implants. Compared with previous postmortem studies, our findings showed the extent of osteolysis was similar to that with metal-on-polyethylene articulations.


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