There is increasing global awareness of adverse reactions to metal debris and elevated serum metal ion concentrations following the use of second generation metal-on-metal total hip arthroplasties. The high incidence of these complications can be largely attributed to corrosion at the head-neck interface. Severe corrosion of the taper is identified most commonly in association with larger diameter femoral heads. However, there is emerging evidence of varying levels of corrosion observed in retrieved components with smaller diameter femoral heads. This same mechanism of galvanic and mechanically-assisted crevice corrosion has been observed in metal-on-polyethylene and ceramic components, suggesting an inherent biomechanical problem with current designs of the head-neck interface.
We provide a review of the fundamental questions and answers clinicians and researchers must understand regarding corrosion of the taper, and its relevance to current orthopaedic practice.