RESEARCHERS at the University of Limerick are exploring the potential of improving the lifespan of orthopaedic implants and hope to reduce the need for secondary surgical procedures.
Approximately 750,000 orthopaedic implant operations are undertaken in the US each year. By 2030, this figure is expected to increase to 4.5 million. The US hip and knee market for implants and devices was estimated at $6.4 billion in 2009.
Dr Maurice N Collins, Stokes Institute, UL explained: “Currently some orthopaedic materials have failure rates of 13% over five years. Our research hopes to explain the failure mechanisms in these materials in order to positively impact on the longevity of implants”.
The researchers have explored a link between sterilisation methods and wear in the materials predominantly used in artificial joints.
Before surgery these components are sterilised by gamma radiation and this causes complex material interactions which ultimately change the mechanical properties of the bearing material, by increasing its stiffness and brittleness. Consequently, wear rates are also changed by sterilisation processes, and the subsequent generation of wear debris has been implicated in artificial joint loosening and infection.
The UL research team are looking to further this work by exploring its translation in further biomedical research as well as automotive materials and electronics. Preliminary results are currently been prepared for publication.