Metal Exposure in Veterans With Embedded Fragments From War-Related Injuries: Early Findings From Surveillance Efforts

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To characterize systemic metal exposures from retained fragments in a cohort of war-injured US Veterans enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Embedded Fragment Registry.


Five hundred seventy nine registry-enrolled Veterans submitted an exposure questionnaire and urine sample for analyses of 14 metals often found in fragments. Urine metal results were compared with reference values of unexposed populations to identify elevations.


55% of Veterans had normal urine metal values. When observed, tungsten and zinc were the metals most frequently elevated, followed by cobalt; however, cobalt levels were not associated with a fragment source, but with surgical implants present.


Though most metal elevations observed are not significantly outside the normal range, on-going accrual of metal burdens in these Veterans over time recommends continued surveillance which may inform future medical management.

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