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Polyethylene wear is one of the most important causes of failure of total knee replacements (TKRs). Currently, wear can only be accurately measured by retrieval studies. There is a need for a method to measure wear accurately in vivo. We have developed a Roentgen stereophotogrammetric analysis (RSA) system that can measure penetration of the metallic femoral component into the polyethylene of the tibia. We have used this system to study six AGC TKRs at 6 years postoperatively and six control AGC TKRs at 2 weeks postoperatively. The mean difference between the RSA measured bearing thickness and the manufacturer's quoted values for the control group was -0.03 mm (S.D. 0.17). The average linear penetration in the study group was 0.8 mm (S.D. 0.46). This was significantly (P<0.0001) different from the control group. The average linear penetration rate was 0.13 mm per year (S.D. 0.08). We would expect the penetration to deepen with time. In young active patients, this could be a cause for concern, particularly with a thin bearing. The current system is accurate enough to measure wear at 5 years post TKR. It has the potential for predicting long-term wear problems with new designs of TKR and new materials within 2 years.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





183 - 187


Aged, Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee, Femur, Humans, Knee Prosthesis, Middle Aged, Photogrammetry, Polyethylene, Prosthesis Failure, Radiography, Tibia