Conventional Versus Highly Cross-Linked Polyethylene in Primary Total Knee Replacement: A Comparison of Revision Rates Using Data from the National Joint Registry for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland

Thomas C J Partridge, Paul N Baker, Simon S Jameson, James Mason, Mike R Reed, David J Deehan
Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. American Volume 2019 November 12

BACKGROUND: There is evidence to support the use of highly cross-linked polyethylene (HXLPE) in patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty. However, the benefits for those undergoing total knee arthroplasty are uncertain, with conflicting reports based on previous cohort analyses. The purpose of the present study was to compare the revision rates following primary total knee arthroplasty with use of HXLPE as compared with conventional polyethylene (CPE) using data from the National Joint Registry (NJR) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective analysis of primary total knee arthroplasties recorded in the NJR from 2003 to 2014. Cobalt-chromium (CoCr)-CPE and CoCr-HXLPE bearing surfaces were compared using all-cause revision, aseptic revision, and septic revision as end points. Survival analyses were conducted using rates per 100 years observed, Kaplan-Meier survival estimates, and Cox regression hazard ratios (HRs) adjusted for age, sex, American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) classification, body mass index (BMI), lead surgeon grade, and implant constraint. Secondary analyses compared the most commonly used HXLPEs (Zimmer Prolong, DePuy XLK, and Stryker X3) against CPE for the 3 most common total knee arthroplasty systems (NexGen, PFC Sigma, and Triathlon).

RESULTS: In the present study of 550,658 total knee arthroplasties, the unadjusted aseptic revision rates were significantly lower following procedures performed with CPE (n = 513,744) as compared with those performed with HXLPE total knee replacements (n = 36,914) (0.29 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.28 to 0.30] compared to 0.38 [95% CI, 0.35 to 0.42], p < 0.01). The 10-year HR associated with CPE was 0.4 (95% CI, 0.1 to 0.8, p = 0.03). There were no significant differences between the adjusted revision rates of HXPLE compared with CPE in individual analyses of the most common total knee arthroplasty systems. However, for the subset of patients who were both <60 years of age and had a BMI of >35 kg/m, the "second-generation" Stryker X3 HXLPE demonstrated significantly better survival than its respective CPE, with CPE having an HR of 2.6 (95% CI, 1.2 to 5.9) (p = 0.02).

CONCLUSIONS: Alternative bearings are marketed as having improved wear properties over traditional CoCr-CPE. This registry-based analysis demonstrated no overall survival benefit of HXLPE after a maximum duration of follow-up of 12 years. Because of their increased cost, the routine use of HXLPE bearings may not be justified. However, they may have a role in specific "higher demand" groups such as patients <60 years of age and/or those with a BMI of >35 kg/m.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete list of levels of evidence.

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