Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene has a low X-ray attenuation, hence, the performance of the polyethylene implants used for joint replacements cannot be directly investigated using X-ray-based imaging techniques. In this study, the X-ray attenuation of polyethylene was increased by diffusing an FDA-approved oil-based contrast agent (Lipiodol ultra fluid) into the surface of the samples, and the suitability of this novel radiopaque ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene for clinical applications was examined. Different levels of radiopacity were created by controlling the diffusion parameters, and the level of radiopacity was quantified from computed tomography scans and reported in Hounsfield units. The physical, chemical and tensile properties of the radiopaque ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene were examined and compared to untreated and thermally treated controls. The results of this study confirmed that for the samples treated at 115°C or less the diffusion of the contrast agent did not significantly alter the crystallinity (p = 0.7) or melting point (p = 0.4) of the polyethylene. Concomitantly, the tensile properties were not significantly different from the control samples (p > 0.05 for all properties). In conclusion, the radiopaque ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene treated for less than 18 h at a temperature of 115°C or below is a promising candidate for joint replacement applications as it can be identified in a standard X-ray while retaining the tensile properties of clinically used radiolucent ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene.
- Tensile properties
- Joint replacement