Wear of metal-on-metal hip bearings: metallurgical considerations after hip simulator studies

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Metal-on-metal hip-bearing components with different percentages of carbon content (low and high carbon) were tested in 6 different configurations using a hip joint simulator. The aim of this study was to characterize metallurgical and tribological events occurring at the articulating surfaces of these articulations. Also, ion release was evaluated and correlated with wear. After the test, for the highcarbon components, carbides were observed below the matrix surface. In the low-carbon content components, most carbides were “carbide-free”, while a minority were worn below the matrix surface with increased test cycles. In the cast alloy components, some carbides were pulled out resulting in micropits. Scanning microscope electron characterization of the tested specimens showed scratches and holes. The surface showed a dominant severe wear mechanism due to third-body particles. A greater amount of ions was released in the lubricant used during the wear test for the smaller diameter compared with the bigger one. This study showed that the metallurgical and tribological events taking place at the articulating surfaces of metal-metal hip implants are numerous and complex. The surface morphology after the test showed the effect of more critical working conditions with smaller diameters.

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