Cobalt-chromium femoral components developed scratches and released metal debris in simulated wear whereas ceramic femoral components did not

Bone Joint J. 2021 Jun;103-B(6 Supple A):94-101. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.103B6.BJJ-2020-2429.R1.


Aims: The aims of this study were to evaluate wear on the surface of cobalt-chromium (CoCr) femoral components used in total knee arthroplasty (TKA) and compare the wear of these components with that of ceramic femoral components.

Methods: Optical profilometry was used to evaluate surface roughness and to examine the features created by the wear process in a knee wear simulator. We developed a method of measuring surface changes on five CoCr femoral components and quantifying the loss of material from the articular surface during the wear process. We also examined the articular surface of three ceramic femoral components from a previous test for evidence of surface damage, and compared it with that of CoCr components.

Results: We found that the surface roughness of CoCr components rapidly increased during the first 1,000 wear cycles, then reached a steady state, but material loss from the surface continued at a rate of 1,778,000 μm3 per million cycles as carbides were removed from its matrix. These carbides formed third-body wear particles, leading to the formation of new scratches even as older scratches were worn away. In contrast, no scratching, loss of material, or other surface damage, when evaluated with one nanometer resolution, was found on the surface of the ceramic components after a 15 M wear cycle test.

Conclusion: This study showed wear and loss of CoCr material from scratching and microabrasive wear in TKA. The material loss from the surface continued in a linear relationship with increasing cycles. We also found the absence of scratching and roughening of ceramic femoral components in simulated wear, suggesting an advantage in wear rate and avoiding metal sensitivity. This may have implications in the management of persistent pain after TKA. Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2021;103-B(6 Supple A):94-101.

Keywords: Ceramic; Cobalt-chromium alloy; Total knee arthroplasty; Wear.

MeSH terms

  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / instrumentation*
  • Ceramics / chemistry*
  • Chromium / chemistry*
  • Cobalt / chemistry*
  • Femur / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Knee Prosthesis*
  • Materials Testing
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Prosthesis Failure*
  • Surface Properties


  • Chromium
  • Cobalt