May 8, 2012 — A new study adds more evidence that metal-on-metal hip implants corrode more quickly and severely than metal-on-plastic hip implants. The parts of a metal-on-metal hip replacement grind together, and over time, they can shed chromium and cobalt ions into nearby tissues and the bloodstream, leading to metal poisoning, metallosis, and other side effects. Local tissue reactions are also more common with the design. Despite the fact that multiple studies have linked metal-on-metal hip implants to a higher risk of side effects and failure compared to metal-on-plastic or metal-on-ceramic designs, the devices continue to be widely used in unsuspecting Americans.
The latest study was published this month in the Journal of Arthroplasty, under the title “Metal-on-Metal Local Tissue Reaction is Associated with Corrosion of the Head Taper Junction.”
The authors of the study examined 33 different hip replacements that had recently been removed from patients. 19 of the devices were metal-on-metal designs, and 14 were metal-on-plastic designs. The researchers found that just 1 out of 19 metal-on-metal devices were corrosion-free (5.2%), versus 6 out of 14 (43%) of the metal-on-plastic devices.
Furthermore, while just 7% of the metal-on-plastic hip implants showed corrosion outside of the taper zone, 42% of the metal-on-metal hip replacements showed such corrosion.
The researchers concluded that the corrosion was more significant with the metal-on-metal design at all time intervals. The researchers were also concerned that the metal-on-metal hip replacements might have a higher rate of failure than metal-on-plastic designs.
Other studies have also found that the metal-on-metal design is associated with a higher risk of failure, and some experts are now calling for the devices to be banned. These experts are concerned that the risks of the metal design outweigh its benefits. Since other designs have been linked to a lower risk of failure and side effects, doctors should use these other designs.
The problem is that the metal hip replacements were initially marketed toward and implanted in younger, more active implant patients. These people may now actually be more likely to need an additional, costly, and painful surgery to fix a metal hip implant if it fails prematurely.
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