Metal-on-metal hip implants have been a health concern ever since patients began coming forward with reports of complications from their new hips. In an article published by BBC News, patients who have received a metal-on-metal hip implant need lifelong blood checks for cobalt and chromium levels.
Manufacturers of metal-on-metal hip implants, such as DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, Smith & Nephew, Wright Medical, Zimmer Biomet Holdings and Stryker are facing lawsuits alleging the devices resulted in problems including loosening, bone erosion, damage to surrounding tissue as well as metallosis, a dangerous blood condition that occurs when metal bits flake off the device and make their way into the bloodstream. The metal-on-metal design has been known to fail in as little as five years, as opposed to other hip material designs that last for 20 years or more.
Increases in cobalt and chromium levels aren’t anything to be taken lightly. A recent study tested the effects of metal wear looking for changes possibly linked to exposure to excessive metal ions. The researchers found that dissolved metals were absorbed into the bone marrow, impairing the cells that are responsible for bone mineralization, a vital process in the forming of bone.
“We are seeing patients with 10, 20, 50 times normal levels. I think our highest level is nearly 300,” said Tony Nargol, a consultant surgeon at the University Hospital of North Tees.
Michael Carome, Deputy Director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, a not-for-profit consumer advocacy group, said of the growing issue, “This is one very large uncontrolled experiment exposing millions of patients to an unknown risk. We will only find out about the safety of these devices after large numbers of people have already been exposed.”