Dementia and Metal on Metal Hip Replacements
The term “dementia” does not specifically refer to a disease. Instead, it is a general term that describes the loss of memory and other mental abilities. A doctor will diagnose a patient with dementia if two or more brain functions appear to be impaired, like memory and judgement (alz.org).
Metal on Metal, or MoM, hip replacements cause high levels of metal ions, like cobalt and chromium, to be released into a patient’s body. This occurs due to the cup and ball of the implant rubbing together, which in turn releases metal ions into the bloodstream. As a result, elevated metal ions in the body have many negative side effects like heart failure, vision loss, hearing loss, and dementia.
One study follows 9 patients who have DePuy ASR metal on metal hip replacements. Cobalt and chromium levels in their blood were tracked after receiving the implant. Additionally, patients were also monitored for medical issues known to be reactions to metal ions in the blood. In the end, 7 out of the 9 patients showed signs of early onset dementia (Green et al).
The Bleeding Edge
In summary, the documentary The Bleeding Edge discusses issues with faulty testing and approval processes of medical products. Many medical products released for use in the general public are helpful and only do what they are designed to do with no serious problems. However, some of these products end up causing serious harm and injury to patients who use them.
The documentary features an orthopedic doctor who was implanted with a metal on metal hip replacement, a DePuy ASR, which was marketed towards people who lead active lifestyles. However, within months of receiving the replacement, he started noticing weird symptoms that included things like confusion and repeating himself when speaking. These are both signs of dementia.
The symptoms got so bad that he experienced a mental breakdown and trashed his hotel room while at a medical conference. Doctors searched for answers to what could cause this vast change in the doctor’s health. When tests looking for metal ions in his body returned, the levels showed 100 times higher than normal.
There’s no single test to diagnose dementia. Instead, it is diagnosed after doctors speak with their patients about symptoms, check medical histories and performs lab tests.
Brain function tests like the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) questionnaire is also a good resource. The test is scored out of 30, and the average score is a 28. The age of the person taking the test is also taken into account while interpreting results.
Additionally, if you show signs of dementia and have a metal on metal hip replacement, it may be a sign that you are experiencing negative reactions to high metal ion levels in your body. In result, you should speak to your doctor about any medical concerns you have about your metal on metal hip replacement.
- Difficulty remembering recent conversations
- Difficulty remembering names or events
- General forgetfulness and short-term memory loss
- Impaired Social Skills
- Tendency to repeat oneself
- Inability to go through daily functions
- Inability to complete simple tasks
- Ex. Basic addition or spelling words backwards
- High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
- High Cholesterol
- Lack of physical activity
- Low levels of formal education
- Head injuries
- Family history of Alzheimer’s
Is Dementia Curable?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia. Further, there are only a few treatments available. However, for patients with dementia due to their metal hip replacement, a revision surgery should lower the metal ions in their bodies. This may prevent the dementia from getting any worse.
“Neuropsychiatric symptoms following metal-on-metal implant failure with cobalt and chromium toxicity” – Ben Green et al 2017