A Postmortem Analysis of Polyethylene Damage and Periprosthetic Tissue in Rotating Platform and Fixed Bearing Tibial Inserts

J Arthroplasty. 2022 Jun;37(6):1203-1209. doi: 10.1016/j.arth.2022.02.051. Epub 2022 Feb 18.


Background: Mobile bearing designs are intended to reduce wear, but mixed results were reported from retrieval analyses. Postmortem evaluation (PM) provides the opportunity to assess polyethylene damage in successful implants. We compared damage patterns, MRI presentation, and histology between mobile-bearing and fixed tibial inserts retrieved postmortem and compared these results to our prior findings from implants retrieved at revision.

Methods: Eleven postmortem knees with rotating platform (RP) implants and 13 with fixed bearing (FB) implants were examined. All were MRI scanned, and tissue samples were collected from standardized regions for histology. Polyethylene inserts were subjectively scored to assess articular, backside, and PS post surfaces for damage modes and severity.

Results: Average duration of implantation was 9.3 years (1.7-19.6 years). Surface burnishing was the most common polyethylene damage mode. Average damage scores were higher for RP (53.4) compared to FB inserts (34.4) due to greater backside damage (13.4 for RP vs 1.4 for FB). A minimal difference in damage was observed on the articular surfaces (37.4 RP vs 30.0 FB). Mild innate macrophage reactions were seen in 8 (72.7%) RP and 5 (45.5%) FB specimens. Polyethylene particles were identified in 7 (63.6%) RP and 3 (27.7%) FB specimens.

Conclusions: Postmortem inserts showed low damage levels and mild tissue reactions compared to those reported for implants removed at revision arthroplasty. Nonetheless, trends in comparing RP and FB inserts were consistent with those seen in retrieval analyses, demonstrating the usefulness of retrieval studies in capturing performance differences among TKA designs.

Keywords: bearing; fixed bearing; knee; polyethylene; polyethylene damage; postmortem; rotating platform; tibia.

MeSH terms

  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee*
  • Humans
  • Knee Prosthesis*
  • Polyethylene
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Prosthesis Failure
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Polyethylene