Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)

First Advisor

Gary Elliott Friedlaender


Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) is used worldwide as a bearing material in total joint replacement prostheses. Despite its excellent biocompatibility and high wear resistance, wear of UHMWPE components continues to be a major problem limiting the clinical lifespan of UHMWPE-containing orthopaedic implant devices. Multi-directional motion or cross-path motion is known to affect wear rates of UHMWPE in total knee and hip replacement prostheses. The purpose of this study was to quantify the effect of counterface roughness on the cross-path wear of UHMWPE and to determine if the previously established unified theory of wear model could accurately predict wear rates in an abrasive wear environment. UHMWPE pins were articulated against both smooth (centerline roughness, Ra, of 0.015 µm) and rough (Ra = 0.450µm) cobalt-chromium counterfaces in a series of six rectangular wear paths (width = A, length = B) with systematically increasing aspect ratios (B/A) and linear tracking (A = 0), all with identical path lengths (20mm) per cycle. Gravimetric weight loss was converted into volumetric wear rates and wear factors, k. The results showed that for both smooth and rough-counterface tests, wear reached a maximum when a 3mmx7mm wear path was employed. The unified theory of wear was generally accurate in predicting wear rates; however, for rough-counterface tests there was a larger increase in the wear factor for higher aspect ratio rectangular wear paths. The ratio [k rough/ k smooth] decreased monotonically as a function of increasing width of rectangles, normalized by total path length, or A/(A +B). This study showed that wear of UHMWPE articulating in a rectangular motion path likely occurs via a two-step mechanism beginning with molecular orientation followed by material fracture from the UHMWPE surface. The models inability to accurately predict UHMWPE wear for rectangular paths with lower aspect ratios suggests that there may be other operative wear mechanisms including significant re-orientation in the perpendicular sliding direction. In conclusion, it is possible to predict the wear behavior of UHMWPE using mathematical models. A robust model would have an important role in characterizing and predicting performance of currently used and potential future orthopaedic implant materials.