We studied factors contributing to the initiation of fracture and failure of a zirconia ceramic femoral head. The materials retrieved during a revision total hip replacement were submitted to either visual, stereomicroscopic and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) or SEM and energy-dispersive x-ray analysis. X-ray diffraction was performed in order to investigate the extent of tetragonal to monoclinic phase transition. Histological examination was performed on the periprosthetic tissues.

The results showed that failure was due to the propagation during clinical use of defects which may have been introduced into the material during the processing of the ceramic, rather than those intrinsic to zirconia. The literature relating to previous failures of zirconia components is reviewed.

  • Received October 20, 2003.
  • Accepted March 24, 2004.