Categories: Abstracts, 2023, Podium

Metal debris release may be under-recognised in total ankle replacement

S. Haston, D. Langton, D. Townshend, R. Bhalekar, T. Joyce

1Newcastle University, School of Engineering, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

2 ExplantLab, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

3Northumbria NHS Trust, North Shields, United Kingdom

Winner of the BOFAS 2023 Klenerman Prize for Best Basic Science Paper

Background: Despite advancements, revision rates following total ankle replacement (TAR) are high in comparison to other total joint replacements. This explant analysis study aimed to investigate whether there was appreciable metal particulate debris release from various contemporary TARs by describing patterns of material loss.

Methods: Twenty-eight explanted TARs (9 designs: 3 fixed and 6 mobile bearing), revised for any reason, were studied. The articulating surfaces of the metal tibial and talar components as well as the polyethylene insert were assessed for damage features using light microscopy. Based on the results of the microscopic analysis, scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy was performed to determine the composition of embedded debris identified, as well as non-contacting 3D profilometry.

Results: Pitting, indicative of material loss, was identified on the articulating surfaces of 54% of tibial components and 96% of talar components. Bearing constraint was not found to be a factor, with similar proportions of fixed and mobile bearing metal components showing pitting. More cobalt-chromium than titanium alloy tibial components exhibited pitting (63% versus 20%). Significantly higher average surface roughness (Sa) values were measured for pitted areas in comparison to unpitted areas of these metal components (p<0.05). Additionally, metallic embedded debris (cobalt-chromium likely due to pitting of the tibial and talar components or titanium likely from loss of their porous coatings) was identified in 18% of polyethylene inserts. The presence of hard 3rd body particles was also indicated by macroscopically visible sliding plane scratching, identified on 79% of talar components.

Conclusion: This explant analysis study demonstrates that metal debris is released from the articulating surfaces and the coatings of various contemporary TARs, both fixed and mobile bearing. These findings suggest that metal debris release in TARs may be an under-recognised issue that should be considered in the study of painful or failed TAR moving forwards.


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