A Systematic Review of Systemic Cobaltism After Wear or Corrosion of Chrome-Cobalt Hip Implants

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We sought to synthesize data on systemic arthroprosthetic cobaltism, a recently described syndrome that results from wear or corrosion of chrome-cobalt hip components.


We conducted a systematic literature review to identify all reported cases of systemic arthroprosthetic cobaltism. To assess the epidemiologic link between blood cobalt levels (B[Co]), we developed a symptom scoring tool that evaluated 9 different symptom categories and a category of medical utilization.


We identified 25 patients reported between 2001 and 2014 with a substantial increase in case reports over the past 3 years. Symptoms were diverse and involved the hip (84%), cardiovascular system (60%), audiovestibular system (52%), peripheral motor-sensory system (48%), thyroid (48%), psychological functioning (32%), visual system (32%), and the hematological, oncological, or immune system (20%). The mean latency from implantation to presentation or revision was 41 months (range, 9–99 months). The mean B[Co] was 324 μg/L and 4 patients had levels less than 20 μg/L. The B[Co] but not blood chromium level was highly associated with a quantitative measure of overall symptom severity (r2, 0.81; P < 0.001). Mean B[Co] and symptom scores were substantially higher in patients with revisions of failed ceramic-on-ceramic prostheses than those with primary metal-on-metal prostheses.


Systemic arthroprosthetic cobaltism is an increasingly recognized complication of wear or corrosion of chrome-cobalt hip implants, may involve a large number of organ systems, and may occur with relatively low B[Co]. There is an urgent need to better define the overall scope of the problem and to develop screening and management strategies.

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