J. Compos. Sci., Vol. 5, Pages 273: Is Surface Metastability of Today’s Ceramic Bearings a Clinical Issue?
Journal of Composites Science doi: 10.3390/jcs5100273
Alessandro Alan Porporati
Recent studies on zirconia-toughened alumina (ZTA) evidenced that in vivo aged implants display a much higher monoclinic zirconia content than expected from in vitro simulations by autoclaving. At the moment, there is no agreement on the source of this discrepancy: Some research groups ascribe it to the effect of mechanical impact shocks, which are generally not implemented in standard in vitro aging or hip walking simulators. Others invoke the effect of metal transfer, which should trigger an autocatalytic reaction in the body fluid environment, accelerating the kinetics of tetragonal-to-monoclinic transformation in vivo. Extrapolations of the aging kinetics from high (autoclave) to in vivo temperature are also often disputed. Last, Raman spectroscopy is by far the preferred method to quantify the amount of monoclinically transformed zirconia. There are, however, many sources of errors that may negatively affect Raman results, meaning that the final interpretation might be flawed. In this work, we applied Raman spectroscopy to determine the monoclinic content in as-received and in vitro aged ZTA hip joint implants, and in one long-term retrieval study. We calculated the monoclinic content with the most used equations in the literature and compared it with the results of X-ray diffraction obtained on a similar probe depth. Our results show, contrary to many previous studies, that the long-term surface stability of ZTA ceramics is preserved. This suggests that the Raman technique does not offer consistent and unique results for the analysis of surface degradation. Moreover, we discuss here that tetragonal-to-monoclinic transformation is also necessary to limit contact damage and wear stripe extension. Thus, the surface metastability of zirconia-containing ceramics may be a non-issue.
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