Clinical manifestations in ten patients with asymptomatic metal-on-metal hip arthroplasty with very high cobalt levels

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Reports of adverse reactions to metal particle debris with metal-on-metal (MoM) hip arthroplasty have increased recently. Apart from the formation of pseudotumours and higher revision rates, another major cause for concern are the systemic effects of metal ions. Several effects of elevated systemic cobalt ions have been reported (e.g. myocardial and neurological effects, hypothyroidism).All 643 patients who underwent a stemmed large head MoM total hip replacement in our clinic were screened with repeated whole blood samples of metal ions (cobalt, chromium). We included ten asymptomatic unrevised patients with the highest cobalt concentrations, determined at a minimum of three years after implantation. These patients were subjected to an extensive neurological and cardiological screening protocol. In addition, blood samples were taken to assess renal and thyroid function. Ten patients with a cobalt level of 18–153 μg/L (mean 46.8 μg/L) were included. Nine patients were female, mean age was 65 years (range 56–75). The mean follow-up period was 4.2 years (range 3.0–6.1). Seven patients had bilateral stemmed MoM hip arthroplasty. No signs or symptoms of neurological dysfunction, cardiomyopathy, or renal or thyroid dysfunction could be identified or attributed to elevated cobalt levels.The clinical relevance of this study is that after short-term follow-up highly elevated blood cobalt levels do not cause systemic effects in our population. Hence in asymptomatic patients metal ions appear not to be a significant factor in the decision of when to revise a MoM large head total hip replacement.

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