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Microscale wear behavior and crosslinking of PEG-like coatings for total hip replacements


The predominant cause of late-state failure of total hip replacements is wear-mediated osteolysis caused by wear particles that originate from the ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) acetabular cup surface. One strategy for reducing wear particle formation from UHMWPE is to modify the surface with a hydrophilic coating to increase lubrication from synovial fluid. This study focuses on the wear behavior of hydrophilic coatings similar to poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG). The coatings were produced by plasma-polymerizing tetraglyme on UHMWPE in a chamber heated to 40°C or 50°C. Both temperatures yielded coatings with PEG-like chemistry and increased hydrophilicity relative to uncoated UHMWPE; however, the 40°C coatings were significantly more resistant to damage induced by atomic force microscopy nanoscratching. The 40°C coatings exhibited only one damage mode (delamination) and often showed no signs of damage after repeated scratching. In contrast, the 50°C coatings exhibited three damage modes (roughening, thinning, and delamination), and always showed visible signs of damage after no more than two scratches. The greater wear resistance of the 40°C coatings could not be explained by coating chemistry or hydrophilicity, but it corresponded to an approximately 26–32% greater degree of crosslinking relative to the 50°C surfaces, suggesting that crosslinking should be a significant design consideration for hydrophilic coatings used for total hip replacements and other wear-dependent applications.

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