Validation of a protocol based on Raman and infrared spectroscopies to nondestructively estimate the oxidative degradation of UHMWPE used in total joint arthroplasty
As a matter of fact, the in vivo oxidative degradation of highly cross-linked polyethylene (HXLPE) still remains one of the limiting factors that affect the long term survivorship of joint replacements. Recent studies clearly pointed out that also the new generation of highly cross-linked and remelted polyethylene components in total hip and knee replacement underwent unexpected oxidation after 5–10 years of implantation. The standard methodology to investigate the oxidation of polyethylene (PE) relies on the use of infrared spectroscopy, which, if from one hand is a reliable technique for the detection of oxidized species containing carbonyl group, on the other hand it is not capable of discriminating the fraction of carboxyl acids that is responsible for chain scission and subsequent deterioration of the mechanical properties of the polymer. In the present study we validate a new protocol based on Raman spectroscopy, which is suitable on assessing the structural degradation of polyethylene induced by oxidation. Following in vitro accelerated aging experiments, the oxidation index (OI) of different commercially available HXLPEs, as calculated by infrared spectroscopy according to ASTM standard, has been univocally correlated to the most severe variation of crystalline phase (αc), as calculated by Raman spectroscopy. In each material, locations with equal values of OI showed different degree of recrystallization induced by chain scission, confirming that infrared spectroscopy might overestimate the effective mechanical degradation of the polymer. In addition, as compared to the standards based on infrared spectroscopy, this new method of assessing oxidation enables to investigate the degradation occurring on the original surface of HXLPE components, due to the nondestructive nature of Raman spectroscopy and its high spatial resolution.Statement of SignificanceIn the present study we validate a new protocol based on Raman spectroscopy, which is suitable on assessing the structural degradation of polyethylene induced by oxidation. In fact, the standard methodology to investigate the oxidation in polyethylene relies on the use of infrared spectroscopy, which is capable of detecting the presence of oxidized species containing carbonyl group, the main products of oxidation in polyolefins. If from one hand this technique enables quantitative analysis of oxidation, on the other hand it is not capable of discriminating the fraction of species with carbonyl groups responsible for the chain scission. In fact, esters, ketones and carboxyl acids are products of oxidation with carbonyl groups commonly formed on polyethylene at the end of the oxidative cascade initiated by the presence of free radicals, but only the latter are responsible for the chain scission and the subsequent deterioration of the mechanical properties. The oxidation index as obtained according to the ASTM standards is not univocally correlated to a certain degree of mechanical deterioration, but, in simple words, two retrievals with the same amount of carbonyl groups might have had different degradation of the mechanical properties. Recrystallization is a direct consequence of the reduction of molecular weight that occurs after chain scission. Raman spectroscopy (RS) is a viable non-destructive method to assess the fraction of crystalline phase in polyethylene and, due to its high spatial resolution, is perfectly suitable to analyze the microstructural modification at the mesoscopic scale, where the effects of oxidation manifest themselves. The aim of the present paper is twofold: i) to compare the microstructural modifications caused by in vitro oxidation on 5 different types of polyethylene currently available on the market of joint replacements; ii) to establish a protocol based on the comparative analysis of IR and RS results to obtain a phenomenological correlation capable to judge the mechanical deterioration of the material induced by the oxidative degradation.
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Journal: Acta Biomaterialia - Volume 38, 1 July 2016, Pages 168–178