“If you have a metal-on-metal (hip) replacement, it is imperative to have the metal ion test as soon as possible,” warned BJackson, in a comment on Missoulian’s Letters to the Editor. “My neighbor’s wife passed away a little over a year ago because of cobalt and chromium poisoning. .. she had the offending metal-on-metal (hip implant) removed and a new hip put in, (but) it was too late for her. They had spent three years telling her that she had ALS, but they were incorrect, and it was the metal-on-metal (hip implant) that killed her.”
The comment was posted in response to Carol, another concerned reader who had written a letter regarding a woman who had written to the newspaper the week before concerning her sister’s health care. The sister had a metal hip implant that was causing her problems and Carol urged the woman to have her blood checked. “I know someone who has had a similar hip replacement and has faced serious consequences,” she said.
The concerns are valid. People who have had hip replacements made with all-metal parts should have their blood checked regularly for metal ions even if the device isn’t causing them problems. The devices can corrode while in the body, leaching chromium and cobalt into the bloodstream, causing a type of blood poisoning known as metallosis. The symptoms of this condition are not fully understood and the long-term effects are even more a mystery. Researchers say that metallosis can damage DNA, leading to serious health problems including cancer.
In 2010, Johnson & Johnson subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics recalled its metal-on-metal ASR hip replacement system and hip resurfacing system after the devices were found to fail at a higher than expected rate. Not only were the devices prone to fracturing and loosening, they were also poisoning the blood.
Manufacturers of other metal-on-metal devices have also issued recalls. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also ordered makers of all-metal hip implants to collect data on injuries caused by the devices, particularly instances of heavy metal in the blood.