People who have undergone hip replacement surgery who have, or think they have, a metal-on-metal (MoM) implant, should contact their orthopedic surgeon even if the joint appears to be functioning well to rule out a type of blood poisoning, warns Dr. Stephen Faust, an orthopedic surgeon and co-director of Anne Arundel Medical Group’s Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists.
“Hip replacements have been widely performed in this country for over 50 years, and the results have improved significantly due to improvements in techniques and materials,” he wrote in the Capital Gazette. “However, some changes that initially seemed to promise improved outcomes – based on research, laboratory testing, and early surgical results – have in fact proved to lead to difficulties with time and wider use.”
Dr. Faust specifically mentions metal hip implants as a “cause for concern.” Traditional hip implants are made with ceramic or plastic parts, but MoM implants were designed with all metal parts intended to be more durable and hold up better over time. However, that proved not to be the case. MoM hip implants were failing at a higher than expected rate. The reason why was shocking to learn, even for the most tenured surgeons.
As the metal parts of the device rubbed together, bits of metal would fall into the joint space, inflaming and damaging tissue causing the device to fail. The metal bits were also leeching into the bloodstream causing a type of blood poisoning known as metallosis. Short-term symptoms of metallosis range from fatigue to headaches. No one is sure of the long-term effects though some studies show that metallosis can damage DNA, which can lead to serious health complications including cancer.
Many patients have had to undergo revision surgery to remove and replace their defective metal hip implant. These surgeries are typically more invasive and require longer recovery than initial hip replacement surgery.
Lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of these defective hip implants by people who have been injured by the device. Patients who have not had their MoM devices removed and who have not experienced problems should be diligent about getting regular checkups, Dr. Faust said.
“They should have metal ion levels in the blood tested at least yearly and more frequently if elevations are found. Pain or swelling around the hip should be investigated with X-rays and other specialized tests.”
Source: Capital Gazette