‘Bio-tribology’ tests defined for orthopaedic implants

The orthopaedic implant sector is in a continual state of development, witnessing an explosion in novel materials' application and radical design alterations. This process is, however, often laced with challenges and articulating joints present a great number of these.

It has led to Stoke based materials development, testing and assurance consultancy Lucideon to release a Whitepaper highlighting the key techniques for testing the materials and associated design of implants, along with defining 'bio-tribological' test regimes.

Bio-tribology is the study of friction, lubrication and wear of mechanical components in the human body and the factors to consider in the design of implants. Assessment of an implant covers three areas - mechanical testing, debris analysis and surface analysis.

The aim is to focus on generating an understanding of the orthopaedic implant in terms of how the design, base material or coating copes with the day-to-day movement of the body.

Like any mechanical system with moving parts, the implant suffers tribological effects including applied stresses and frictional forces, particularly those with articulating surfaces.

Issues associated with wear of an implant can be severe and range from heat generated due to friction to particles coming off the device and causing adverse effects to the surrounding tissue. Worse still, delamination of a coating following cracking can be catastrophic and completely debilitating for a patient.

Properties like improved wear and corrosion resistance will improve the longevity and behaviour of implanted devices, and any stresses associated with an implant depend on the patient's body weight and physical activity, which should both be factored into the process of designing any implant.

Indeed, the testing process must also be all-encompassing and physiologically relevant to generate valid findings.

Author
Justin Cunningham

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