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Understanding What Causes Metallosis and Who is at Risk

December 26, 2018

When there are high levels of toxic metals in the bloodstream, a blood poisoning that is called metallosis could result. Often, these metal particles can become dislodged and enter the body from metal hip replacements. These metal shards often find their way into the bloodstream or into the soft tissue immediately around the surgical site. Another way that metallosis has been acquired is through environmental heavy metals obtained from taking bad drugs or natural remedies that the Federal Drug Administration reports are from questionable pharmacies or from unknown sources.

Metallosis can have serious effects, such as the death of bone or tissue, lead to implant failure, and cause severe debilitating pain. It can lead to the patient losing cognitive functioning, tissue damage and loss, and serious damage to the patient’s nervous system. If metallosis is severe, it could necessitate another surgery in which the surgeon will take out the metal-on-metal hip implant that has caused the blood poisoning and/or damaged tissue with an implant made of non-metal, such as ceramic.

Who is at Risk of Acquiring Metallosis?

There are some people who are more likely to suffer from blood poisoning known as metallosis. While about 18% of those who have had hip resurfacing experience pain that worsens, less than 5% of those were proven to have the form of blood poisoning. Here are some people who much more likely to suffer from the condition:

  • Those who have had bilateral hip implants
  • Women
  • Individuals who are overweight
  • Those who have suboptimal alignment of the implant
  • Both males and females with some form of renal insufficiency
  • Individuals who are highly physically active

What are the Symptoms of Metallosis?

If you are suffering from some unusual symptoms, you might be wondering if you might have metallosis. There are several symptoms that are associated with the condition:

  • Neuropathy or neurological problems
  • Skin Rashes
  • Depression, anxiety, mental issues, or psychological changes
  • Cardiomyopathy such as heart failure
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Thyroid issues that contribute to fatigue, temperature sensitivity, weight gain
  • Infections
  • Visual impairments that could lead to blindness
  • Loosening of the implant
  • Clatter or noise when the hip is moved

The symptom associated with metallosis can vary greatly because everyone reacts differently after exposure to high metal levels. The pain suffered from metallosis is usually associated with tissue or bone death, known as necrosis, caused when the tissue surrounding the implant becomes a darker color or blackens from the exposure to the metal that flakes off from the implant. This can lead to a major instability in the joint that was replaced, which will cause spontaneous dislocations, bone loss, or bone fractures. Occasionally the patient is diagnosed with fluid-filled non-cancerous pockets or pseudo-tumors around the damaged tissue. If you are suffering from a severe metallosis case, you might have even more symptoms, including:

  • Poor memory or brain fog
  • Intense pain
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath or periods of breathlessness
  • Hearing loss or problems
  • Vertigo
  • Abnormal blood pressure
  • Development of a goiter
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

The World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer has tried to determine if there is a correlation between cancer and metallosis but have not been able to prove that yet. The organization does list cobalt and trivalent chromium, both of which are used in joint implants, as carcinogens.

How is Metallosis Diagnosed?

Metallosis is not easy to diagnose. To accurately diagnose the condition, a series of comprehensive blood tests are conducted. Elevated levels of cobalt ions might be detected in the hair, urine, bloodstream, or joint fluid of patients who aren’t yet experiencing symptoms. Because comprehensive research is lacking, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t provided guidance regarding what classifies as safe levels of metal ions in the bloodstream. Most experts believe normal cobalt measurements in joint fluid should not exceed two micrograms per liter. The condition might also be diagnosed through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and x-rays to see if there are signs of tissue damage.

How is Metallosis Treated?

If the metallosis is caused by a joint replacement surgery, then a procedure to replace the implant is necessary to avoid additional shredding of metallic particles into the surrounding tissue or the bloodstream. After the offending device has been removed successfully, the buildup of metallosis in the body will start dropping. But from then on, the patient will most likely suffer heightened sensitivity to low material levels for the rest of their life. There are some additional metallosis treatments, including chelation therapy.

Chelation therapy involves the physician recommending chelating agents to treat the condition either intravenously, intramuscularly, or orally. This therapeutic approach binds metal ions, so they can take the poison out of the body. This approach has proven to be effective in treating other kinds of poisoning, such as lead, iron, arsenic, and mercury poisoning. Excessive levels of cobalt can’t be removed from the joint or joint fluid. Because removal of cobalt isn’t possible, early detection is necessitated to ensure that the patient gets the most positive outcome from the surgical procedure. Metal poisoning that is severe can lead to undesirable and unfavorable side effects, such as fractures and damage to tissues during surgery, which will lead to a recovery that is much more challenging.

What Should I Do Next?

If you suspect you have metallosis, or if you are experiencing any adverse reactions or events that you think are related to your metal hip implant, you should see an orthopedic surgeon right away. Other adverse events might include infections, a fracture in the device, dislocation of the hip, loosening of the device, or problems with any surrounding tissues. The treating physician will make note of any symptoms that are specific to the condition, such as pain in the groin or hip, difficulty walking, hip noise and so forth.

If you have new symptoms appearing that aren’t directly in the area of the hip that was replaced, go see your primary care provider and mention that you suspect problems with your metal hip implant. Your primary care provider will most likely send you to a surgeon who will suggest that you have surgery to revise the hip implant, where the metal hip implant is replaced by a non-metal device.

Seek Legal Help

If you’ve suffered complications from your hip replacement surgery, then you may have legal options in order to seek compensation for the injuries and damages that you have incurred. Patients who have suffered from metallosis due to a hip implant have successfully filed product liability lawsuits to cover damages for medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and more.

The team at Fears Nachawati understands the frustration and anguish felt by those who have suffered from a surgical procedure that was meant to help them and improve their quality of life, whose consequences or complications were never warned about, and we are fully prepared to help victims recover from this devastating blow. Our law firm is one of the leading firms in the great state of Texas for medical malpractice and surgery claims and we are ready to fight for you.

If you or a loved one has suffered severe injury or complications as a result of a hip replacement procedure, then the legal team at Fears Nachawati is here to help you hold the responsible parties accountable. Contact our experienced team today for a free, no obligation legal consultation to discuss the specifics of your case. Please call (866) 705-7584 or visit the offices of Fears Nachawati located throughout the great state of Texas, including in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio


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