Metal-on-metal hip implants were designed in response to the increasing number of younger, more active people who were finding their joints were wearing out long before they were ready to retire to more sedentary lifestyles. The all-metal hip implants were expected to last much longer than the ceramic or plastic implants—as long as 20 years. Soon after the introduction of the all-metal hip implant, however, problems began to arise. Although each manufacturer of the metal-on-metal hip implants had their own unique design—many of which created more problems for recipients—what they had in common was the potential for causing metallosis.
The metal components of the various hip implants rubbed against one another, leading to metal shear and causing microscopic metal ions to enter the bloodstream and the tissues surrounding the implant. Even in the designs which implemented a ceramic ball, it was found later that the metal neck junctures and metal trundles on either end of the neck could trap body fluids, causing corrosion and leading to metallosis just like their all-metal counterparts. The Wright Profemur and Conserve hip implants have both been associated with early failure and femoral neck fracture although neither model has yet been recalled.
The friction between the cobalt and chromium components of the hip systems lead to metal shear, which in turn can cause serious health issues for the recipients of the implants. When the metal ions become lodged in the tissues surrounding the hip implant they can cause severe inflammation and cause pain for the patient. As the metal ions continue to accumulate in the tissues, bone loss, tissue death and eventual loosening and failure of the implant can occur. When the situation becomes this advanced, there is little choice but for the patient to undergo a revision surgery and have the defective hip implant removed and replaced. Metallosis is a result of high levels of metals building up in the body and patients who have metallosiscould be subject to serious and long-term health problems.
- Heart problems
- Neurological problems, including memory loss
- Emotional issues such as irritability, depression and anxiety
- Skin problems
- Vision and hearing disturbances
- DNA alterations
- Renal problems
- Pseudo tumors
Doctors don’t quite yet understand why bodies react differently to levels of cobalt and chromium; some patients with very elevated levels of cobalt and chromium have few, if any, symptoms. In other cases, persons with relatively low levels of cobalt and chromium end up having serious health issues. Sensitivity to metals is a bit like allergies in that each body will react differently to individual substances. If you are the recipient of a Wright-Conserve or Profemur total hip system, see your doctor to discuss the potential risks. Further, it can be advantageous to consult a knowledgeable products liability attorney to discuss your potential options regarding your metal hip implant.