Metal-on-Metal Medical Implants
In the mid-2000s through the early 2010s, several manufacturers of medical devices sold metal-on-metal replacements for hips and other joints, including ankles and knees. It was later discovered that metal-on-metal implants can cause significant damage to joints and potentially toxify the blood, leading to a wide range of medical problems.
The muscles, bones, nerves, and soft tissues surrounding a metal-on-metal implant can all be seriously harmed. Additionally, dangerous microscopic metal particles can end up in the bloodstream and potentially in organs throughout the body. The toxic buildup of metal in the organs can result in a number of health problems, including:
- Organ damage
- Hearing or vision loss
- Cardiac conditions
Many patients who received a metal-on-metal hip later required revision surgery to remove their defective implant and replace it with a safer device. Once the dangers of metal-on-metal implants were revealed, the manufacturers of these products recalled them and stopped manufacturing or marketing them. Though they are off the market, thousands of individuals still have metal-on-metal implants, and many are still suffering from the harm caused by their implant even after it was removed.
Manufacturers of Metal-on-Metal Implants
- DePuy Synthes (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson)
- Smith & Nephew
- Wright Medical
Medical Problems Linked to Metal-on-Metal Implants
Some patients who receive a metal-on-metal implant never experience any symptoms at all, but clinical tests may show unusually high levels of metal ions in their blood. Medical professionals recommend such individuals retest every few months to ensure the amount of metal in their bloodstream is not rising to dangerous levels.
Other patients can suffer from serious and painful issues like the dislocation of their implant, Metallosis (a buildup of metal in soft tissues), and organ damage. Some patients even require corrective surgery.
The act of walking or simply moving causes friction in implanted hips. The head of the implant is ball-shaped and slots into a socket. When both the ball and the socket are made of metal, the friction caused by moving releases microscopic particles of metal (typically cobalt and chrome) that build up in the hip joint and potentially enter the bloodstream. Metallosis is a condition caused by these deposits of metal in the body’s soft tissues. Symptoms include:
- Loosening of the implant
- Dislocated joints
- Bone loss
- Metal toxicity
The presence of dangerous amounts of metal in the body can also cause hypersensitive immune responses, Aseptic Lymphocyte-Dominant Vasculitis-Associated Lesions (ALVAL), cobalt-chromium toxicity, and pseudotumors (non-cancerous growths).
When metal-on-metal implants fail, surgery is often required to remove and replace the device. Revision surgery is a highly specialized and invasive procedure that comes with its own serious risks.