Polyethylene has undergone many changes over the past several decades, including changes in consolidation processes, resin types, sterilization methods, packaging, and the extent of cross-linking. We believe that new sterilization techniques and forms of polyethylene have generally improved wear performance. Polyethylene sterilized without the use of radiation has been shown to have relatively high rates of wear in vivo. Ram-extruded polyethylene sterilized via gamma irradiation in air has been the most commonly used bearing material in the past several decades. Recently, components molded and gamma-sterilized without oxygen as well as highly cross-linked material have found increased clinical use. Exposure of polyethylene to radiation, either to sterilize it or to intentionally cross-link it, has been shown to improve the wear performance of the material. Newer second-generation methods of cross-linking polyethylene include the use of vitamin E, which quenches free radicals and demonstrates promise in providing low wear and desirable mechanical properties.

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