Myocardial Cobalt Levels Are Elevated in the Setting of Total Hip Arthroplasty

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Abstract

Background:

Arthroplasty implants commonly contain elemental metal that may undergo wear-related release. Recently, cases of hip implant-associated myocardial injury have been reported. However, we are not aware of any previous study that has systematically measured myocardial metal levels or examined the relationship with total hip arthroplasty (THA).

Methods:

Archives of our institution were queried for autopsies of individuals who had undergone THA between 1990 and 2013. Myocardial tissue samples were analyzed for cobalt (Co) and chromium (Cr) levels with inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy. Seventy-five Co/Cr-on-polyethylene THA cases were included (mean age at time of death = 77.4 years; 49% women) as were 73 non-arthroplasty controls matched for age, sex, and history of hypertension and diabetes mellitus.

Results:

Significantly higher median myocardial concentrations of Co were observed in individuals with THA compared with controls (0.12 versus 0.06 μg/g, p < 0.0001). The median Co concentration was 69% higher in patients who had undergone THA revision (0.169 μg/g) than in those who underwent primary THA (0.100 μg/g; p = 0.004). In general, higher Co levels were observed in those with multiple replaced joints, although this finding only trended toward significance. Cardiomegaly, interstitial fibrosis, and decreased ejection fraction were observed more frequently in the postmortem samples of patients with implants than in those of controls (p = 0.0002, 0.044, and 0.0039, respectively).

Conclusions:

We believe this to be the first study to quantify metal levels in cardiac tissue in patients with and without joint replacement. The elevated Co levels, in concert with cardiomegaly and increased interstitial fibrosis found during autopsy, in the arthroplasty cohort are novel, important findings. Although Co levels were significantly elevated above those in controls, the majority were below those seen in clinical case reports of death from Co cardiotoxicity associated with metal-on-metal prostheses.

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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