Cobalt and Chromium Metal Poisoning
Heavy metal poisoning is a risk factor for anyone who has a metal on metal (MoM) hip implant. Corrosion from microscopic metal particles in your bloodstream could trigger a hypersensitive immune response in your body.
Your doctor or surgeon will most likely test your blood for metal toxicity. If you have a MoM hip implant and have not gotten bloodwork done yet, you should ask your doctor about it right away.
Blood Serum Metal Testing
Many leading orthopedic surgeons recommend that patients with metal on metal hip replacements undergo cobalt and chromium blood testing every three months for as long as they have a metal on metal implant.
Cobalt and chromium blood testing is critical, even if you don’t have any symptoms or physical issues with your hip. Here’s why: The friction from the metal cup and stem rubbing together can cause extremely small metal particles to break off and spread through your bloodstream and can result in devastating side effects.
What Is Considered a High Level of Chromium and Cobalt?
It’s important to remember that slightly elevated metal levels are normal for patients who have metal on metal hip implants, but excessively elevated levels are very alarming. DePuy Orthopedics, Inc. has released a report stating that concentrations greater than 7 parts per billion of cobalt and/or chromium are of concern. The Mayo Clinic has a 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
The Mayo Clinic Medical Laboratories also 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.”
Interpreting The Results
Laboratories, research studies, and other reports about metal ion release often use different measurements. That makes it confusing for patients to compare and understand their own test results. The good news is that most of these measurements are equivalent and represent the same thing:
1 ppb (parts per billion) = 1 μg/l = 1 ng/ml
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. Read more about the different types of adverse reactions below.
Report Your Problems to the FDA
There is something you can do: Report your adverse metal on metal hip experience to the FDA by filling out a MedWatch form.
Hip manufacturers are required to report all hip failures to the FDA but often find loopholes to keep this data hidden.
If the FDA doesn’t have accurate reporting of patients suffering from serious complications, then neither does your surgeon. Your doctors rely on FDA data to diagnose problems and know when a specific type of hip implant is having issues.
Don’t let the hip implant makers brush your information under the rug. Most people don’t know that you can self-report problems. The FDA needs to hear from you. Empower yourself against these huge corporations who put profits above your health.
It’s simple to fill out and an important way to make your voice heard. Here is a link to the form:
Video of Metallosis Reaction During Hip Revision Surgery
Sometimes the best way to understand severe metal reactions is to see for yourself. Image 1 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 linked to a research study about adverse tissue reactions from metal on metal hip implants.
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.
Hip Revision Surgery – Preserving Evidence
If you have higher than normal metal levels in your blood, or other complications, your surgeon will probably recommend a hip revision. This is a second hip surgery to remove parts of your current MoM hip and replace them with a different type of implant. It’s very important to contact our attorneys before your revision surgery so we can preserve evidence for your case. This includes getting images of the tissue damage and safe storage of the implant parts removed from your body.
Contact us immediately for a case evaluation because there is a time limit to file a claim. Fill out the form below or call us toll-free at 888-952-5242.