What is Metallosis?
Decades ago, before metal hip implants had been invented metallosis was not an issue. Few, if any, patients developed this disabling disorder.
Today, metallosis is a very real byproduct of metal artificial hip implants, causing an accumulation of metal debris in the soft tissue. This can cause a cascade of medical problems that can exist long after the metal implant is removed. While metal implants can cause metallosis, metal-on-metal implants are considered especially dangerous.
Types of Metal Poisoning
Even though researchers are still investigating metallosis and its origins, the working theory is that the metal components of hip implants cause the release of metal ions. The body attacks these ions as foreign invaders and inflames the areas around the ions. Patients often experience a standardized set of symptoms that can indicate metallosis:
- Pain, even when not moving
- Implant loosening
- Hip dislocation
- Gastrointestinal problems
- General malaise
Cobalt poisoning can lead to organ failure, blindness, deafness and convulsions, among other things. Also known as cobaltism, this is caused by the rubbing of hip implants made specifically from cobalt products, including many DePuy and Stryker implants. Normal bodily cobalt levels are about 0.19 mg/L. In patients with cobalt poisoning, the serum cobalt levels have exceeded 7 mg/L. Researchers have shown that metal hip implant patients who have kidney failure are at a particularly high risk for cobaltism.
Equally as dangerous, chromium poisoning from hip replacement can cause medical problems similar to cobalt poisoning. The most typical chromium poisoning patients include welders or others who work in the metal industry.
Ways to Detect Metallosis
The best way for any patient to detect metallosis is to listen to your body. The first signs and symptoms are pain, even when you’re not moving and increased hip movement noise. Pain that remains or reappears after surgery should never be ignored. Physicians who suspect metallosis will run simple blood tests that will indicate the presence of elevated chromium and cobalt levels. If suspected, these same physicians may take a sample of the fluid in the hip joint. Called synovial fluid, it is supposed to be clear and free of debris. If advanced metal poisoning is present, the fluid may appear black and tar-like.
What to Do If You Have High Levels of Metal Toxicity
Today, the only way to treat metallosis is to seek immediate medical attention. Surgery is always necessary.
To treat metallosis, doctors must first remove the injurious implant and surrounding tissue that may have become necrotic, or dead. Surgeons can also remove the pseudotumors that have formed in the area, which are also known to be painful. In some cases, a temporary implant must be placed to allow the area to heal.
Legal Options & Rights
Because of the damaging effects of metal-on-metal hip implants, many patients are also turning to experienced attorneys for help getting funds to pay for the countless medical procedures, time off work and other financial considerations.
Contact us today for more information about your legal rights.
- Cipriano, C. et al. “Metallosis After Metal-on-Polyethylene
- Total Hip Arthroplasty.” Ecardiologynews.com. Retrieved from http://www.amjorthopedics.com/index.php?id=25336&cHash=071010&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=202344
- Mayo Clinic Medical Laboratories. Evaluation of Prosthetic Implant Degradation. Retrieved from http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/articles/hottopics/transcripts/2011/12-metals/08.html
- Pritchett, J. “Metallosis of the Resurfaced Hip.” Pritchettorthopedics.com. Retrieved from http://www.pritchettorthopedics.com/articles/pritchett_metallosis_of_the_hip.pdf