The use of larger prosthetic femoral heads in total hip arthroplasty (THA) has increased considerably in recent years in response to the need to improve joint stability and reduce risk of dislocation. However, data suggests larger femoral heads are associated with higher joint failure rates. For cemented implants, ensuring the continued integrity of the cement mantle is key to long term fixation. This paper describes an investigation into the effect of variation in femoral head size on stresses in the acetabular cement mantle and pelvic bone. Three commonly used femoral head sizes: 28 mm, 32 mm and 36 mm diameter were investigated. The study was undertaken using a finite element model validated using surface strains obtained from Digital Image Correlation (DIC) during experimentation on a composite hemipelvis implanted with a cemented all-polyethylene acetabular cup.
Following validation, the models were used to investigate stresses in the pelvic bone and acetabular cement mantle resulting from two loading scenarios; an average weight subject (700 N) and an overweight subject (1000 N) undertaking a single leg stand.
We found that the highest peak stresses occurred in the anterosuperior and posterosuperior regions of the bone-cement interface, in the line of action of the load, where debonding usually initiates. Stress on the cortical bone-cement interface increased with femoral head diameter by up to 9% whilst stresses in the trabecular bone remained relatively invariant. Our findings may help to explain higher joint failure rates associated with larger femoral heads.