Purpose Total knee arthroplasty (TKA) has experienced exponential growth over the last decade, including increasingly younger patients with high functional demands. Highly crosslinked polyethylene (HXLPE) has been proven effective in reducing osteolysis and loosening revisions while improving long-term survival and performance in total hip arthroplasty; nevertheless, this superiority is not demonstrated in TKA. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to examine whether HXLPE improved overall survival and postoperative functional and radiological outcomes compared to conventional polyethylene (CPE) in TKA. Methods According to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guideline, a literature search of five databases (PubMed, Medline, Scopus, Science Direct and Embase) was made. A PICOS model was performed. The initial screening identified 2541 studies. Each eligible clinical article was analysed according to the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine 2011 Levels of Evidence (LoE). Only randomised clinical trials (RCTs) of LoE 1 and 2 were included. The methodological quality of the articles was assessed using the Risk of Bias 2 (RoB 2) tool. Results Six clinical studies were included in the final study. This systematic review and meta-analysis were registered on the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO). A total of 2285 knees were included. Eight outcomes (total reoperations, reoperations for prosthesis loosening and infections, radiolucent lines, osteolysis, mechanical failure, postoperative KSS knee score and function score) were analysed. For none of them, a statistically significant difference was found about the superiority of HXLPE over CPE (p > 0.05). Conclusions There were no statistically significant differences between HXLPE and CPE for TKA concerning clinical, radiological, and functional outcomes; nevertheless, HXLPE did not show higher failure rates or complications and can be safely used for TKA.
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