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What is the Long-term Wear of a 5-Mrad Highly Crosslinked Polyethylene Liner? A 14-year RSA Study.

BACKGROUND: Lower doses of irradiation (≤ 5 Mrad) during the manufacture of highly crosslinked polyethylene acetabular liners may result in less crosslinking and an increased wear rate. Radiostereometric analysis (RSA) studies have found that wear of more highly irradiated highly crosslinked polyethylene liners (7 to 10 Mrad) decreases at longer-term follow-up compared with earlier reports of the same cohorts. Although wear of 5-Mrad irradiated liners appears to increase at midterm follow-up, it is unclear whether that remains true at longer follow-up.

QUESTIONS/PURPOSES: We asked: (1) In patients who underwent THA with a 5-Mrad highly crosslinked polyethylene liner, what is the wear rate evaluated with RSA during the first 14 years? (2) Does the wear rate decrease after 6 years in situ?

METHODS: This is a brief follow-up of prior RSA studies performed at 2 and 6 years. We prospectively reviewed the longer-term wear rate in 13 patients who underwent primary THAs with the same design of a 5-MRad irradiated crosslinked acetabular liner and a 28-mm cobalt-chromium articulation. Of the initial 30 patients who were enrolled, 13 (43%) were available at the 14-year timepoint; nine patients had died, 1 patient had withdrawn, 1 had an intraoperative fracture, 3 patients were too infirm to have radiographs, 2 had no baseline RSA radiographs, and 1 had poor-quality RSA images. Tantalum markers were inserted during surgery, and all patients had RSA radiographic examinations at 1 week, 6 months, and 1, 2, 6, and 14 years postoperatively.

RESULTS: The mean ± standard deviation proximal, 2D, and 3D wear rates calculated between 1 year and 14 years were 0.019 ± 0.013 mm, 0.022 ± 0.015 mm, and 0.025 ± 0.019 mm per year, respectively. No patient had proximal 2D or 3D wear rates exceeding 0.06 mm per year. An increasing wear rate over time was measured for proximal and 2D wear rates between 6 and 14 years (0.024 and 0.030 mm per year) compared with that between 1 and 6 years (0.008 and 0.010 mm per year; p = 0.03).

CONCLUSION: The proximal, 2D, and 3D wear of a highly crosslinked polyethylene liner produced using 5-Mrad radiation remains low in the longer-term. With the small numbers available in a long-term RSA study such as this, we confirmed that the wear rate did not decrease at longer-term follow-up, unlike previous RSA studies of more highly irradiated highly crosslinked polyethylene liners. Nevertheless, the wear rate remains very low and below the threshold typically associated with the development of osteolysis (0.1 mm/year of wear). This should provide assurance to orthopaedic surgeons monitoring patients with this 5-Mrad irradiated liner in situ, while providing useful information to manufacturers of future highly crosslinked polyethylene liners.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level IV therapeutic study.

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