Monday, February 11, 2013

Symptoms of Cobalt and Chromium Poisoning Following Metal Hip Implant

How Cobalt and Chromium Poisoning from a Hip Replacement Can Impact Your Health

If you are the recipient of a metal-on-metal hip implant, you may have been exposed to cobalt and chromium metals accumulating in your body. In the all-metal hip implants—or the implants which utilize a ceramic ball yet still use a metal liner—when the implant recipient engages in activity, the metal components rub against one another, creating friction. This friction releases microscopic metal ions into the body which will either travel into the bloodstream or will become lodged in the surrounding tissues.

When the metal shards burrow into the hip tissues, the body sees these metal ions as intruders and sends special white cells to fight them off. Unfortunately, the body’s natural defenses are no match for cobalt and chromium metals. Inflammation ensues which leads to chronic pain, tissue damage and death and even bone loss. Total failure of the implant can be the result of these adverse reactions to a DePuy Pinnacle metal hip implant. Failure of the implant will necessitate a revision surgery in which the Pinnacle (or the metal liner) is removed and replaced with non-metal components.

Did the DePuy Pinnacle Cause Your Symptoms of Chromium Poisoning?

The DePuy Pinnacle gained FDA approval in 2000, and although it has yet to be recalled like the DePuy ASR, there have been a significant number of adverse reports of failure and metal toxicity. The Pinnacle was the predecessor to the ASR which received FDA approval in 2005. The Pinnacle and ASR are both considered monoblock design, although the ASR is more of a “hybrid” monoblock. What this means to the implant recipient is that the design implements a single one-piece ball and cup which is fitted onto the top of the stem.

The Pinnacle implements a separate plastic or metal liner which is placed on top of the femoral head. Unlike the ASR, the Pinnacle is attached to the bone via screws. The metal liner used in the Pinnacle is known as the Ultamet, however the Pinnacle did not actually gain FDA approval to use a metal liner with the Pinnacle hip system. The Pinnacle has been shown to have high failure rates, with many recipients having been required to undergo revision surgery within five years of the initial implant. If you wonder whether your Pinnacle hip implant may be responsible for metal poisoning, check out the symptoms below. 

What Are the “Typical” Symptoms of Cobalt Poisoning?

When the tiny chromium and cobalt ions reach the bloodstream, symptoms of metal toxicity or metal poisoning can occur. Cobalt and chromium poisoning exhibit many of the same symptoms including:

  • Thyroid and renal issues
  • Cardiovascular and neurological disorders
  • Memory loss
  • Emotional problems such as depression, anxiety and irritability
  • Disruption of DNA
  • Vision and hearing loss
  • Chronic headaches
  • Vertigo
  • Skin disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorders

Cobalt poisoning can also lead to seizures and brain damage in extreme cases and has been linked to cancer as well. Many patients with hip implants which contain metal components have tested with levels of cobalt and chromium well over 100 times what is considered normal. If you are the recipient of a metal hip implant such as the DePuy Pinnacle, it is important to consult your physician and have regular bloodwork done, particularly if you have any symptoms of metal toxicity or pain. 

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Author: Andrew Sullo
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