The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel of medical device experts convened recently, advising against metal-on-metal hip implants, just short of banning the device altogether.
The panel also advised that any patients who have received the devices should be evaluated with an X-ray and blood tests, particularly if they are experiencing pain or other symptoms that might indicate device failure. In particular, blood tests would allow detection of metal in the bloodstream, which could result in metallosis, a dangerous condition of metal poisoning in the blood.
The metal-on-metal hip designs, made by a number of medical device manufacturers such as Wright Medical, DePuy Orthopaedics and its parent company Johnson & Johnson, Stryker, Smith & Nephew and Zimmer Biomet Holdings, are made up of a cobalt-chromium alloy, which has been known to shed metal debris with normal use. The metal debris may damage and kill the surrounding tissue and pollute the bloodstream, putting the patient at risk for cobalt poisoning.
Robert Peters is a recipient of a metal-on-metal hip that he says has given him extensive pain and health problems. He wrote to Dr. Scurr with the Daily Mail for advice. “Blood tests revealed I have 100 times more than normal the amount of cobalt in my blood,” Peters wrote, “as well as dangerous amounts of chromium.”
Dr. Scuff warned that cobalt poisoning is “under-recognized.” He advises that it’s possible to experience high blood pressure, dizziness and skin rashes, tremor, poor coordination, cognitive decline and depression as well as reportedly damaging effects on the heart, hearing and vision with elevated cobalt and chromium levels in the blood.