Retrieved Magnesia-Stabilized Zirconia Femoral Heads Exhibit Minimal Roughening and Abrasive Potential

J Arthroplasty. 2017 Dec;32(12):3806-3814. doi: 10.1016/j.arth.2017.07.018. Epub 2017 Jul 25.


Background: The degradation of ceramic femoral heads made of yttria-stabilized zirconia (Y-TZP) because of tetragonal-to-monoclinic phase transformation in vivo is well-described, whereas magnesia-stabilized zirconia (Mg-PSZ) ceramics resist phase transformation in a warm aqueous environment. The purpose of this study was to evaluate phase transformation, changes in surface topography, and roughness parameters, including changes in surface polarity and abrasiveness, among retrieved zirconia femoral heads.

Methods: A total of 69 Y-TZP and 86 Mg-PSZ-retrieved femoral heads were examined, with 5 never-implanted heads of each type as controls. Selected heads were scanned by x-ray diffraction, to measure % monoclinic phase. All heads were scanned by optical profilometry to find visual evidence of degradation and to measure surface roughness, surface polarity, and the functional roughness parameters. Monoclinic phase % and roughness data were plotted vs time in vivo.

Results: Visual evidence of phase transformation was observed among Y-TZP femoral heads, and some exhibited pitting. Y-TZP femoral heads roughened and become more abrasive in vivo, although those made by CeramTec exhibited less degradation than those by Morgan and Saint Gobain. In contrast, Mg-PSZ heads did not exhibit pitting, undergo phase transformation, or roughen in vivo, and retained a negative surface polarity.

Conclusion: All Y-TZP femoral heads exhibited increased phase transformation with time in vivo, although not all Y-TZP heads exhibited catastrophic roughening. No phase transformation was observed on Mg-PSZ femoral heads after up to 19.2 years in vivo. The lack of degradation among Mg-PSZ retrievals suggests a lower wear potential in joint replacement.

Keywords: biomaterials; hip arthroplasty; retrievals; roughness; zirconia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ceramics
  • Female
  • Femur Head / surgery*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hip Prosthesis*
  • Humans
  • Magnesium Oxide / chemistry*
  • Male
  • Materials Testing
  • Middle Aged
  • Prosthesis Design*
  • Prosthesis Failure*
  • Surface Properties
  • X-Ray Diffraction
  • Yttrium
  • Zirconium / chemistry*


  • Magnesium Oxide
  • Yttrium
  • Zirconium
  • zirconium oxide
  • yttria