AIMS: To report the appearances of zirconium dioxide and barium sulphate in interface membranes, synovium, and other tissues around joint prostheses. METHODS: Histological sections from 23 specimens were reviewed by light microscopy and polarisation. Scanning electron microscopy and x ray microanalysis were performed on routinely processed paraffin wax sections. RESULTS: Polyethylene, metals, and polymethylmethacrylate cement debris were easily recognisable. Almost all the cement remnants contained either zirconium dioxide or barium sulphate, confirmed by microanalysis. The contrast media had characteristic light microscopic appearances. Zirconium was identified in macrophages away from cement remnants. CONCLUSION: The presence of radiographic contrast media in tissues around prosthetic joints is common but not widely recognised.
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