Safety of metal-on-metal hip implants.

This report has been publicised widely, so people are likely to ask, ”How safe are metal-on-metal hip replacements, and what should I do if I have one?

  • Metal-on-metal implants, which have been used since the late 1990s, are made of cobalt-chromium alloy rather than ceramic or polyethylene, and this may lead to ion leakage.
  • High levels of metal ions can destroy muscle and bone and leak into the bloodstream, spreading to the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, and kidneys, before leaving the body in the urine. The ions have also been liked to chromosomal damage and cancer.
  • The 49 000 UK  people with metal-on-metal hip implants with a femoral diameter of 36 mm or more will need follow-up tests for the rest of their lives (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency advice).
  • This will mean annual blood test to check metal ion concentrations.
  • People with symptoms of hip problems (such as swelling, pain, or limping) should have annual magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Asymptomatic  people with raised ion concentrations (>7 micrograms per litre) should receive repeat testing three months later and MRI if concentrations continue to rise.

Read the full article (British Medical Journal) here.


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