Cobalt Chromium Poisoning from Metal on Metal Hip Replacements

Cobalt Chromium Metal Poisoning from Hip Replacements

Cobalt chromium poisoning is a risk for anyone with a metal on metal (MoM) hip replacement.  It happens when there’s friction between metal surfaces. The friction releases tiny metal particles into your bloodstream that could trigger a hypersensitive immune response in your body.

Your doctor will probably order blood tests to check the levels of metal in your bloodstream.  

Cobalt chromium poisoning from a defective metal on metal hip replacement
Image of metal 'sludge' found in a hip during a revision surgery.

Why is Blood Testing Critical?

Leading orthopedic surgeons recommend cobalt and chromium blood testing every three months for as long as a patient has a metal on metal hip in their bodies.

Cobalt and chromium blood testing is critical, even if you don’t have any symptoms or physical issues with your hip. You can still have metal poisoning with no symptoms.   

What is Considered a High Level of Chromium and Cobalt?

Slightly elevated metal levels are normal for patients with metal on metal hip replacements. Really high metal levels are alarming.  DePuy Orthopedics, Inc. released a report saying that concentrations higher than 7 parts per billion (ppb) of cobalt and/or chromium are of concern. The Mayo Clinic has set a much lower reference value for blood testing, listed below.

High Chromium Levels: Greater than 1ng/mL

According to the Mayo Clinic Medical Laboratories, “blood serum concentrations greater than 1ng/mL in a patient with Cr-based implant suggest significant prosthesis wear.” Their research also indicates that these levels increase the longer you have the hip implant.

High Cobalt Levels: Greater than 10ng/mL

Additionally, the Mayo Clinic Medical Laboratories reports that “cobalt is not highly toxic, but large doses will produce adverse clinical manifestations. Toxic concentrations are greater than or equal to 5.0 ng/mL.  Serum concentrations greater than 10ng/mL in a patient with cobalt-based implant suggest significant prosthesis wear.”

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What Should I Do if I Have Elevated Metal Levels?

See your orthopedic surgeon and primary care physician immediately.  This is a situation that requires long-term medical monitoring.

If your concentration of cobalt and chromium remains above a safe level, your doctor will probably recommend a MARS MRI and/or ultrasound and more testing.

If not, you may want to request these advanced tests from your doctor, even if you don’t have any symptoms.

What if I Don’t Have any Symptoms?

Often there are no immediate physical signs of a problem, but the hidden damage that these metals can do to your body is traumatic.  The earlier you get medical care, the better.

Some adverse reactions can be cured by a revision surgery or other medical interventions, but only if done early enough.

This is why it’s important to be aware of the type of metal on metal hip replacement you have, and to ask your doctor if you should be getting regular blood tests for metal ion levels.

Need Metal Blood Testing?

Some labs perform these screenings without doctor's orders
Revision Surgery of patient with defective metal on metal hip replacement

Video of Metallosis Reaction During Hip Revision Surgery

Sometimes the best way to understand severe metal reactions is to see for yourself. The image below shows a still shot of metallic colored fluid gushing from the surgical area near the hip implant. Click the photo to see the full video of research done on adverse tissue reactions from metal on metal hips. In this research, the patient is a 70-year-old man who reported swelling in his hip. During the revision surgery, doctors punctured the fluid-filled tissue surrounding the muscles of the hip to find a surprising amount of discolored fluid, along with corrosion at the head-neck junction of the hip implant. The pathology report confirmed it was an adverse local tissue reaction (ALTR) from the metal on metal hip implant. Click the image to watch the video.

Other Adverse Reactions to Metal Ions

metal poisoning in patient due to defective metal on metal hip replacements

Adverse Reaction to Metal Debris (ARMD)

ARMD describes general complications to metal debris in the body from corrosion in a metal on metal (MoM) hip implant. The researcher who coined the term “ARMD” used it to describe all the different types of soft tissue damage found in patients with MoM hips, including metallosis, pseudotumors, and ALVAL. Click the image to learn more about ARMD.

Xray of pseudotumors in patient who has defective metal on metal hip replacements

Aseptic Lymphocyte-Dominant Vasculitis-Associated Lesions (ALVAL)

ALVAL happens when the metal particles from the defective metal implant interact with the body's immune cells, causing the body's defense system to act like it's being attacked. Symptoms of ALVAL include pain in the hip and groin area, clicking/popping/squeaking of the hip implant, lumps or inflammation around the hip implant or groin, and more.

Reactions in a persons hip cavity to the harmful metal particles from defective metal on metal hip replacements

Metallosis

Metallosis is a type of metal poisoning. It involves a build-up of metal debris in the body’s soft tissue. This happens when parts of a metal on metal hip replacement rub together, releasing tiny cobalt and chromium particles into your bloodstream and the tissue surrounding your hip. These particles rot healthy red tissue and muscle around the implant and turn it into a dry, gray, and dead mass of gunk. This means pain and loss of mobility.

X-ray of a patient with a defective metal on metal hip replacement

Osteolysis

Bone loss is the destruction of bone around an implant. Bone loss is also called “osteolysis” or “aseptic osteolysis.” It is a common yet serious side-effect of Metal on Metal (MoM) hip replacements. A leading cause of MoM hip failure is bone loss. In fact, according to the Rheumatology Network, “implant loosening resulting from aseptic osteolysis accounts for more than 75% of [implant] failures” (Rheumatology Network).

Reaction in a persons hip cavity to the metals in defective metal on metal hip replacements

Adverse Local Tissue Reaction (ALTR)

ALTR stands for “Adverse Local Tissue Reaction,” and it’s a type of inflammatory response, similar to an allergy, that can happen in the hip joints of people with Metal-on-Metal (MoM) hip implants. Some symptoms of ALTR are similar to an infection, like swelling and collections of fluid, but ALTR is not an infection at all. Rather, ALTR is an immune reaction to the metal debris floating around in the surrounding tissue.

mctlaw Attorneys are Highly Experienced in Metal Hip Lawsuits

  • Maglio Christopher & Toale, P.A. is one of only a handful of law firms in the nation that has reviewed the millions of discovery documents involved in this type of litigation. Other law firms contact our attorneys for advice on these types of cases.
  • Our attorneys have personally questioned under oath dozens of orthopedic hip manufacturer’s employees from all over the world, including surgeons, designers, marketing executives, and corporate CEOs.
  • In 2008 Maglio Christopher & Toale, P.A. filed the first lawsuit in the United States against a manufacturer of the current generation of defective metal-on-metal hip replacements. Ever since we have been at the forefront of litigation against the makers of these defective medical devices across the United States.
  • We have developed contacts within the orthopedic community, an understanding of how that community works, and we have extensive medical and technical knowledge about defective orthopedic hip replacements.
  • Our attorneys are aggressively and actively litigating defective metal on metal hip cases through the U.S. state and federal court systems. We are not waiting for a settlement that may never come because our clients need help now.
Michael Cowgill

Michael J. Cowgill

Attorney

Metal on Metal Hip Injury

Sarasota, FL

MCTLaw attorney Ilyas Sayeg

Ilyas Sayeg

Attorney

Metal on Metal Hip Replacements

Sarasota, FL

Michele Stephan

Michele S. Stephan

Attorney

Metal on Metal Hip Replacements

Sarasota, FL

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