Arthritis is a leading cause of disability, and when nonoperative methods have failed, a prosthetic implant is a cost-effective and clinically successful treatment. Metal-on-metal replacements are an attractive implant technology, a lower-wear alternative to metal-on-polyethylene devices. Relatively little is known about how sliding occurs in these implants, except that proteins play a critical role and that there is a tribological layer on the metal surface. We report evidence for graphitic material in the tribological layer in metal-on-metal hip replacements retrieved from patients. As graphite is a solid lubricant, its presence helps to explain why these components exhibit low wear and suggests methods of improving their performance; simultaneously, this raises the issue of the physiological effects of graphitic wear debris.
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