Hip implant systems generally consist of four component parts: a cup, ball, stem, and liner. The component parts are often designed from cobalt, chromium, or titanium. Ceramic and plastic components are also common.
When components articulate against one another during normal use, microscopic metal particles can fret off a device and be deposited into the surrounding tissue and bone. The metal debris can also be absorbed into the blood stream and infiltrate into organs. Similarly, corrosion can occur between two dissimilar metal components (e.g. a cobalt-chromium ball and titanium stem) which can also release metal ions off the device. This premature breakdown of metal hip implants can lead to cobalt poisoning or “cobaltism.” The tissue damage that results from cobalt poisoning can significantly complicate future revision surgeries.
Signs that you have suffered failure of your metal hip implant and may be experiencing cobalt poisoning include discomfort, pain or inflammation in the hip; clicking or popping noises in the hip; loosening of the hip implant components; thigh or groin pain; pain while ambulating; and pseudotumors or other non-cancerous cysts in the hip.
Cobalt poisoning can be an extremely serious condition. Studies demonstrate that if not properly treated cobalt poisoning can lead to blindness, cardiomyopathy, cognitive deficits (including dementia), convulsions, deafness, depression, headaches, hypothyroidism, loss of coordination, peripheral neuropathy, tinnitus, and vertigo.
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