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The Robbins and Jacobs Family Biocompatibility and Implant Pathology Laboratory

The Robbins and Jacobs Family Biocompatibility and Implant Pathology Laboratory is part of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Rush and is located in the Sophija and Jorge O. Galante Orthopedic Building. It is our mission to investigate the different causes and underlying mechanisms of orthopedic implant failure and thereby provide information to the orthopedic research community on how to prevent premature implant failure. The focus of our research lies on the analysis of retrieved tissues and implant devices from patients with joint replacements. Such devices can either be surgically retrieved components from revision surgery (failure cases) or postmortem retrievals (well-functioning devices).


Follow us on Twitter: @RushImplantLab
Contact us: Deborah Hall / Robin Pourzal


Our work

The main emphasis of our lab has been retrieved joint replacements for the hip, knee, and shoulder, but we also study retrieved ankle replacements and spine implants. The postmortem retrievals are collected by our team according to a previously published protocol. The analysis of retrieved tissue concentrates especially on tissue reactions to foreign bodies such as wear debris and corrosion products that are generated from joint replacements. In order to determine the type of tissue reaction that has occurred, we employ specific histology and immunohistochemical methods. Furthermore, we are able to analyze the chemical and structural composition of foreign bodies using custom developed methods. Our device retrieval analysis includes the analysis of specific damage features and the determination of the occurring damage mode, implant alloy metallurgy, determination of material loss using metrology methods, wear particle analysis and the analysis of the interaction of implant surfaces with the body (e.g., osseointegration). For the latter, we are also able to conduct in vivo studies using established animal models.

Specific areas of research include the following:

  • To determine failure modes of failed joint replacements
  • Analysis of tissue reactions to wear debris and corrosion products generated from implants
  • Systemic reactions to wear debris and corrosion products
  • Animal models to test osseointegration properties of implant surfaces and bone graft substitutes
  • Determination of material loss from implant surfaces (metrology)
  • Implant alloy characterization (metallography)
  • Particle analysis

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Meet our team

Our team consists of experts in orthopedic science, biology, histology, materials science and engineering, in order to have a coordinated effort in studying the entire patient/implant construct correlating the cellular responses of interface, local and systemic tissues of the body to the wear, corrosion, and metallurgy of the joint components.


Our laboratory houses all equipment needed to perform plastic embedded histology, histopathological evaluation of periprosthetic and remote organ tissue, implant failure analysis, and metallography (sample preparation of metallic samples). The following specialized equipment is featured in our laboratory or used for our work: 


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  • NIH/3R01AR070181-05S1, Title: Dissemination of metallic implant debris to the brain and implications on Alzheimer’s disease, (PIs: Pourzal, Hallab)
  • NIH/NIAMS R01 AR070181, Title: Corrosion Induced Hip Implant Failure: Synergistic Interaction of Patient, Material, Design, and Surgical Factors, (PIs: Hannah J. Lundberg, PhD, Mathew T. Mathew, PhD, Robin Pourzal, PhD)
  • Academy of Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) Pilot Grant, Title: “Periprosthetic tissue response to wear and corrosion debris from total shoulder arthroplasties”, (PI: Grant Garrigues, MD)
  • NIH/NIBIB R21 EB024039, Title: Determination of excessive immune reactivity to real time implant debris,  (PIs: Markus A. Wimmer. PhD, Nadim J. Hallab, PhD)
  • Cohn Family foundation/ Rush Mentoring office, Title: Spectroscopic Imaging of Periprosthetic and Remote Organ Tissue of Joint Replacement Patients, (PI: Pourzal)
  • Rush Translational Science Consortium (RTSC) Pilot Grant, Title: Corrosion in modular hip implants: Identifying the ideal alloy microstructure, (PI: Pourzal)

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  • Histopathological analysis of periprosthetic tissues including immunohistochemistry (IHC)
  • Implant failure analysis and damage evaluation
  • Quantitative wear assessment of surgically or postmortem retrieved as well as in vitro tested implant components by means of an optical co-ordinate measuring machine (CMM)
  • Evaluation of bone in-growth via undecalcified embedding and point-counting
  • Animal models for the evaluation of synthetic bone graft substitutes and implant biocompatibility
  • Metallography for implant alloys
  • Advanced microstructural evaluation of implant alloys via electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) including detailed analysis of manufacturing defects in additively manufactured—3D printed—implant components
  • Assessment of particle size using field emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM)
  • Chemical analysis of particles within periprosthetic or remote organ tissues by means of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy Imaging (FTIR-I) and FE-SEM coupled with energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) mapping.
  • Chemical analysis of bio-/tribofilms on implant surfaces and structural changes of UHMWPE and PEEK implant components by means of FTIR and Raman spectroscopy.

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Links to PubMed bibliography of laboratory publications:

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Contact us

Deborah J. Hall / Robin Pourzal

Department of Orthopedic Surgery
Rush University Medical Center
1611 W. Harrison Street, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60612

Phone: 312-942-3217
Fax: 312-942-2101



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