Investigation into the Engagement and Performance of Modular Taper Junctions in Total Hip Replacements

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


Morse-type tapers were incorporated into total hip replacements to allow the use of a ceramic bearing material. Modularity also offers increased intra-operative flexibility during primary and revision surgery and, the ability to balance soft tissues in order restore the natural gait. However, moving from a mono-block to a modular design has meant fluid ingress and micro-motion at the interface can cause degradation via fretting-corrosion. Wear and corrosion products at the taper junction are associated with adverse local tissue reactions commonly presented in patients as pain followed by instability. The effect of fretting corrosion at the head-neck was highlighted in a recent study. Thirty-three (of 4581) patients required revision of a metal-on-polymer replacement due to adverse reaction to metal debris produced as the head-neck junction.

Morse tapers were originally designed to allow machine parts such as drill bits and cutting tools in milling machines to be changed quickly without compromising torque transmission. The conical surfaces are designed to be highly conforming, smooth, hard, long and with a slight taper. Head-stem tapers on the other hand are much shorter with a much higher taper rate (i.e. shorter with a greater taper angle), often presenting a threaded finish and present a level of angular mismatch in order to create specific contact regions.

Studies have investigated and found that the taper design influences the amount of fretting-corrosion. This has been seen in variations such as: the material couple, mechanical loading, surface texture of the interface, nominal contact area, presence of any stress concentrations and, impaction conditions. Many of these taper deign variations influence the engagement of the two mating taper interfaces. Previously, the geometrical form has been used to quantitatively evaluate macro-scale conformity using a maximum of three parameters providing only a limited insight into taper engagement. Some studies have investigated the surface topography to assess engagement on the micro-scale, neglecting the geometrical form. This project's aim is to assess taper engagement and performance due to geometrical form and local deviations.

The aim has been divided into the following high level objectives:
- Develop measurement and analysis techniques that allows taper interfaces to be appropriately characterised using precision engineering measurement devices such as Roundness and Coordinate Measurement Machines.
- Assess how commercially available modular head and stem systems vary between manufactures and within each manufacturer.
- Determine how these variations effect engagement between a head and a stem couple.
- Finally, determine how these taper variations affect the performance of head stem systems in terms of taper mechanics, susceptibility to crevice corrosion and tribo-corrosion .

This project will provide a better understanding of how fretting corrosion at the taper interface of medical devices can be minimised between each head and stem couple across a range of commercially available total hip replacements.

Planned Impact

The impact of the Centre will be manifest itself in four ways; by the number and quality of skilled PhD graduates it produces, by the reach and significance of the research that is generated during their studies, by the contribution to the research base in tribology, and through the broader societal impact of improved machine efficiency and energy utilisation.

The number and quality of PhD graduates. iT-CDT plans, in the steady state, to graduate 12 PhD students per year. We expect these students to enter industry as research leaders or academia as RAs then lecturers. UK and EU industries are desperately short of PhD graduates, and they are in demand. We expect to have impact on UK industry with a stream of PhD graduates who will enter for example, the automotive sector (e.g. designing more fuel efficient engines), the rail sector (e.g. increasing network capacity and reducing cost through improved track and vehicle components), the oil industry (e.g. developing new lubricants for increased fuel efficiency), aerospace sector (e.g. tribology needs in jet engines), the power industries (e.g.developing and maintaining more efficient transmissions). PhD students may also commercialise technology or consultancy in the form of a spin-out activity. We have a track record of past PhD students achieving all these things. The iT-CDT plans to extend and broaden that record, will facilitate synergy across the discipline.

The transformative PhD research. During their studies, PhD students will be conducting research on an industry led project. These projects will also have elements of generic application therefore have wide impact. The students will be closely involved with both the sponsoring organisation and other industrial partners. This means that there will be a direct route for technology transfer.

Contribution to the Research Base in Tribology. The iT-CDT is a grouping of the two leading universities in tribology in the UK. It will form the largest critical mass of academics, RAs, and PhD students in the EU. A team of industrial partners will steer the research so that it is relevant and has real routes to impact. This platform will lead to a growth in the research base in tribology for the UK and will impact both industry, with improved products and processes, and academia with the supply of new technology and analytical methods.

Societal Impact. The development of new tribological processes, and engineers skilled in their conception and implementation, will have broader societal impact with machines and process that run with lower friction, higher energy efficiency and have greater durability. In the shorter term, we also plan as part of the iT-CDT for public engagement events using PhD students as the agents of delivery.


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Description Taper degradation in Total Hip Replacements (THR) has been identified as a clinical concern, and the degradation occurring at these interfaces has received increased interest in recent years. Wear and corrosion products produced at the taper junction are associated with adverse local tissue responses, leading to early failure and revision surgery. Retrieval and in-vitro studies have found that variations in taper design affect degradation. However, there is a lack of consistent understanding within the literature of what makes a good taper interface.
This project is aimed at identifying what a 'good' taper interface looks like by developing an understanding between taper design, engagement, micro motion, fretting corrosion and ultimately performance of this interface. The key findings so far include:
• Clinically available taper interface design varies significantly between manufacturers. Variability was also found between manufacturers, likely associated with the manufacturing process. (Publication Pending)
• Samples representing the extreme of the engagements seen clinically demonstrate differences in performance in terms of micro-motion and fretting corrosion
• Differences in motions at the taper interface were found subject to more physiologically relevant loading compared to uniaxial which is more commonly adopted by literature
Exploitation Route Better inform the design and testing of taper junctions in Total Hip Replacements.
Sectors Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description Gettting Woman in to STEM (Collage, West Yorkshire) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Encouraging women into STEM
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Tutoring GCSE Mathematics (Pudsey, West Yorkshire) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Tutoring GCSE Mathematics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018