Cobalt poisoning poses very real risk to hip replacement patients

Along with the pain, swelling, surgical complications and other problems facing DePuy hip implant patients, another serious health threat is cobalt poisoning, or cobaltism. Thousands of patients with these recalled hip joint replacements will require revision surgery to replace the device. Arthroprosthetic cobalt poisoning, along with its own very serious effects, can cause metallosis, which […]

Along with the pain, swelling, surgical complications and other problems facing DePuy hip implant patients, another serious health threat is cobalt poisoning, or cobaltism. Thousands of patients with these recalled hip joint replacements will require revision surgery to replace the device.

Arthroprosthetic cobalt poisoning, along with its own very serious effects, can cause metallosis, which damages tissue around the prosthesis and can make the revision surgery less likely to succeed.

In September 2010, a surgeon in Alaska published a case study of two DePuy implant patients who had cobalt levels in their bloodstream that were 100 to 500 times normal. He listed symptoms from cobaltism caused by the defective implant in these patients:

  • tinnitus
  • deafness
  • vertigo
  • visual changes
  • rashes
  • hypothyroidism
  • tremor
  • dyspnea on exertion
  • mood disorders
  • dementia
  • heart failure
  • peripheral neuropathy

The doctor, Dr. Steven Tower, advises that medical providers should ask patients with these symptoms if they have had a hip replacement, and if so what type. If they have, their cobalt level should be tested.

As it turns out, the doctor himself was one of the two patients in his study. This is his opinion on that circumstance: “In my case and in the case of my patient I believe that causality is proven rather than suggested. … That I was a subject of my own report suggests that cobaltism is not rare in metal-on-metal implantees.”

Dr. Tower also reported additional symptoms from four other cases he researched. They include mental inefficiency, poor concentration, fatigue, headaches, convulsions, peripheral paresthesias, weight loss, slowed nerve conduction velocities, heart failure with tachycardia, systolic dysfunction, interstitial fibrosis, nail changes, dysgeusia, and muscle atrophy. Source: Greensboro Injury Board.

You can read his report here.

 

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