Chemical stability of oil-infused polyethylene

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Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) can be made radiopaque for medical imaging applications through the diffusion of an iodised oil-based contrast agent (Lipiodol Ultra Fluid). A similar process is used for Vitamin E incorporated polyethylene which provides antioxidant properties. This study aimed to investigate the critical long-term properties of oil-infused medical polyethylene after 4 weeks of accelerated thermal ageing. Samples treated with an oil (Vitamin E or Lipiodol) had a higher oxidation stability than currently used medical grade polyethylene, indicated by a smaller increase in oxidation index after ageing (Vitamin E + 36%, Lipiodol +40%, Untreated +136%, Thermally treated +164%). The tensile properties of oil treated polyethylene after ageing were significantly higher than the Untreated and Thermally treated controls (p<0.05) indicating less mechanical degradation. There was also no alteration in the percentage crystallinity of oil treated samples after ageing, though the radiopacity of the Lipiodol treated samples reduced by 54% after ageing. The leaching of oil with time was also investigated; the leaching of Lipiodol and Vitamin E followed the same trend and reached a steady state by two weeks. Overall, it can be concluded that the diffusion of an oil-based fluid into polyethylene not only increases the oxidative and chemical stability of polyethylene but also adds additional functionality (e.g. radiopacity) providing a more suitable material for long–term medical applications.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Biomaterials Applications
Early online date26 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Dec 2020


  • antioxidant
  • joint replacment
  • mechanical testing
  • Medical polyethylene
  • radiocontrast
  • thermal ageing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering

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