Heavy Metal Poisoning From Metal Hips Remains A Legitimate Concern For Patients With Recalled Products
As more information surfaces on the medical complications associated with popular metal-on-metal (MoM) hip replacement devices, heavy metal poisoning is now a concern facing many individuals. For some people with defective metal hips produced by manufactures such as DePuy, Stryker or Biomet, recent product recalls may have come simply too late as repetitive hip dislocations, chronic swelling the the joint area and yes, metal poisoning have become all too common.
Why the concern over heavy metal poisoning in metal hip recipients?
The primary issue with the MoM is surrounding the small particles of chromium and cobalt that are released into the body from the hip replacement as the components on the hips begin to wear. These particles have already been shown to cause tissue damage and even form what are being termed “pseudotumors” at the site of the hip replacement.
Now the concern is over when these particles make their way into the blood stream and cause heavy metal poisoning in the recipients of MoM hip replacements. Both chromium and cobalt can be toxic in the human body at certain levels. There have already been patients with MoM hip replacements that have been diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning. Some of the possible side effects from toxic levels of chromium or cobalt are:
- Renal tubular damage
- Liver and kidney problems, including failure
- Cardiovascular collapse and failure
- Visual impairment, including blindness
- Auditory impairment, including deafness
- Neurological damage
These metals can affect almost every region or organ of the body in one way or another, causing permanent damage in many cases. Moreover, there is little medical research about the long-term implications of metal poisoning related to any type of metals.
First and foremost treatment for any heavy metal poisoning is to remove the source of the heavy metal. In the case of MoM hip replacements, that requires major surgery and expense to remove the implant (known as a hip revision surgery), plus another hip replacement would need to be implanted if they were to have mobility in the joint. However, it would be a necessary procedure to stop additional exposure to the metal particles being released into the body.Beyond removing the source, not much can be done for either cobalt or chromium poisoning once it has occurred. There is no antidote. The body needs to eliminate the metal from the body naturally, though how this elimination process is still not particularly well understood.
While some patients may have some initial symptoms of metal poisoning such as weakness and vision or auditory problems, the only way this condition can be confirmed is via a urine or blood test. Similarly, patients with MoM hips will need to remain under the watch of their physicians to make sure the levels remain in an acceptable range or more aggressive measures may need to be considered. Due to the scant amount of knowledge regarding heavy metal poisoning, the ‘acceptable’ levels of metal poisoning may vary according to individuals symptoms or advice of the particular physician.
Unfortunately, once the damage has been done to organs, even when the source is removed, cobalt and chromium poisoning can have irreversible symptoms. Although removal and detoxification can prevent some further issues, there is still a chance of carcinogenic consequences in the future along with living with the damage that has already been done. Most survivors of severe poisoning from these types of heavy metals will need to be on medications and treatments to control their symptoms for the rest of their life.
Impact on legal proceedings
Given the causal relationship between metal hip replacement devices and the the development of elevated chromium and cobalt levels, patients who have received these devices are entitled to be compensated for the ongoing testing they will likely require for the remainder of their lives. For patients who have developed complications that their physician attributes to metal poisoning