Feasibility Assessment of Compliant Polymers in TKR
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Total knee joint replacements (TKRs) are a commonly used treatment when joint pain becomes a major issue and the function of activities of daily living is impaired. TKRs may last for up to 20 years; however, younger and physically more active patients are receiving TKRs, necessitating increased prosthesis life-time. There has been considerable interest in more cartilage-like materials for the tibial inlay of a TKR. Compliant, rubbery polymers may be a first step towards such a material. In this thesis, finite element analysis (FEA) was utilized to assess the feasibility of polycarbonate urethane (PCU) in a TKR application. Mechanical characterisation of PCU55D and PCU80A was performed in order to better understand the deformation behaviour of these materials. Mechanical test data was then used to tune and validate a hyperelastic material model. In a last step, the material model was applied to a static FE knee model which was used to simulate five discrete loading cases: three gait cycle events, stair climbing and squatting. Contact pressure, contact area and von Mises stress of the PCU inlay were compared to literature and to a standard ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) inlay. The contact area of the articulating implant surfaces was on average 345% greater in PCU than in UHMWPE and contact pressure was on average 77% lower in PCU than in UHMWPE. The difference between TKRs simulated with a PCU tibial inlay and those simulated with a UHMWPE inlay increased with increasing flexion angle. The contact pressures measured in TKRs simulated with a PCU tibial inlay were well below values that are expected to cause damage to the polymer, possibly reducing the risk of wear. The contact areas found in TKRs simulated with a PCU tibial inlay were close to what has been reported for the natural knee. Considering the low contact pressures even at high flexion angles, where initial congruency is limited, it may be feasible to design less conforming knee prostheses that still exhibit low contact pressures, allowing for a greater range of motion. The reported results strongly indicate that compliant polymers may offer an opportunity to improve current TKRs.