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Metallosis: Hip Replacement Complication

Metallosis MoM Hip Replacement

Hip replacements ease pain and increase mobility for thousands of people each year. While these operations are successful for many; not everyone ends up with a good outcome. One unexpected complication linked to metal-on-metal implants is metallosis, a type of metal poisoning which can cause serious problems.


Hip Replacements

Joint pain is an unwelcome reality as we age. One out of every four men over 50 will suffer from a painful bone fracture caused by osteoporosis. It’s even higher for women: one out of every two over 50.

Hip replacements are one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States to correct a variety of hip pain types.

In the United States, there are currently five types of total hip replacement devices available with different bearing surfaces. These are:

  • Metal-on-Polyethylene: The ball is made of metal and the socket is made of plastic (polyethylene) or has a plastic lining.
  • Ceramic-on-Polyethylene: The ball is made of ceramic and the socket is made of plastic (polyethylene) or has a plastic lining.
  • Metal-on-Metal: The ball and socket are both made of metal.
  • Ceramic-on-Ceramic: The ball is made of ceramic and the socket has a ceramic lining.
  • Ceramic-on-Metal: The ball is made of ceramic and the socket has a metal lining.

Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants

While all artificial hip replacement devices carry risks including wear of the component material, metal-on-metal hip replacement devices have unique risks in addition to the general risks associated with a hip replacement device.

Learn more about what happens when a hip replacement fails.

An MoM hip implant has three components: the ball-shaped femoral head, the femoral stem and the acetabular socket (the cup).

The metal ball and the metal cup slide against each other during everyday use such as walking or running, causing friction that wears off tiny particles of debris. The hip implants can shed metal particles into the body causing metallosis (i.e., metal poisoning). Over time, the metal particles around some implants can cause damage to the bone and/or tissue surrounding the implant and joint.


Metallosis Overview

Metallosis, a type of metal poisoning that can occur as a side effect from an MoM hip implant device, occurs when toxic levels of metal build up in the body. Metallosis can cause damage to tissue, bone and the nervous system.

MoM hip implants are typically made from a blend of different metals, including chromium, cobalt, nickel, titanium and molybdenum. When the metal parts rub against each other they release microscopic metal particles into the blood and surrounding tissues.

Metallosis can often lead to bone and tissue death, implant failure and ongoing severe pain. It can also cause a loss of cognitive functioning, tissue damage, a loss of tissue and significant damage to the individual’s nervous system.

Severe metallosis often requires a revision surgery where the MoM implant is removed and replaced with one made of ceramic or another nonmetal material.

Metallosis Symptoms

  • Cardiomyopathy (heart problems), including heart failure
  • Depression, anxiety or other mental problems
  • Visual impairment sometimes leading to blindness
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Nerve problems (neuropathy)
  • Thyroid problems
  • Auditory impairment sometimes leading to deafness
  • Skin rashes
  • Noise coming from the hip
  • Infection
  • Implant loosening

Who is At Risk?

Of course, anyone with an MoM hip implant is at risk for metallosis; however, there are a few factors that may increase one’s risk for suffering adverse events from metal ions.

  • Women
  • Individuals with bilateral hip implants
  • Patients with renal problems or renal insufficiency
  • Suppressed immune systems
  • Suspected metal sensitivity or suspected allergy to nickel
  • Severely overweight
  • High levels of physical activity

Metallosis Diagnosis & Treatment

Metallosis is usually diagnosed by doing a blood test. Imaging tests (i.e., X-rays or MRIs) may also be used to find damaged tissue, bone loss and implant wear and tear. For instance, comparing the first X-ray to follow-up X-rays can sometimes show when an implant has failed due to loosening.

It is important to note that the US FDA has not yet provided guidance on safe levels of metal ions in the bloodstream.

When metallosis is due to a hip or joint replacement, revision surgery is usually required to avoid any further shedding of the implant’s metallic particles


Do You Need Legal Assistance? Receive a Free Evaluation from Experienced Attorneys

If you or a family member suffers from adverse effects from a failed hip replacement, contact our legal team in Kansas City. The attorneys at Nash & Franciskato offer a free, no-obligation case review to individuals who have suffered complications allegedly associated with failed metal-on-metal hip implant systems. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

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