Most wear testing of orthopedic implant materials is undertaken with dilute bovine serum used as the lubricant. However, dilute bovine serum is different to the synovial fluid in which natural and artificial joints must operate. As part of a search for a lubricant which more closely resembles synovial fluid, a lubricant based on a mixture of sodium alginate and gellan gum, and which aimed to match the rheology of synovial fluid, was produced. It was employed in a wear test of ultra high molecular weight polyethylene pins rubbing against a metallic counterface. The test rig applied multidirectional motion to the test pins and had previously been shown to reproduce clinically relevant wear factors for ultra high molecular weight polyethylene. After 2.4 million cycles (125 km) of sliding in the presence of the new lubricant, a mean wear factor of 0.099 × 10−6
/Nm was measured for the ultra high molecular weight polyethylene pins. This was over an order of magnitude less than when bovine serum was used as a lubricant. In addition, there was evidence of a transfer film on the test plates. Such transfer films are not seen clinically. The search for a lubricant more closely matching synovial fluid continues.
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