Along with the pain, swelling, difficulty walking and other possible problems facing DePuy hip implant patients, another serious health danger is cobalt poisoning (cobaltism). Thousands of patients with these recalled hip joint replacements will require another operation called revision surgery to replace the device.

Arthroprosthetic cobalt poisoning, along with its own very serious effects, can cause metallosis, which damages tissue around the prosthesis and can make the revision surgery less likely to succeed.

In September 2010, a doctor in Alaska published a case study of two patients with DePuy implants who had extremely high levels of cobalt in their bloodstream – 100 to 500 times normal. These are symptoms from cobaltism caused by the defective implant in these two patients:

  • tinnitus
  • deafness
  • vertigo
  • visual changes
  • rashes
  • hypothyroidism
  • tremor
  • dyspnea on exertion
  • mood disorders
  • dementia
  • heart failure
  • peripheral neuropathy

 

The surgeon, Dr. Steven Tower, advises that medical providers should ask patients who had these symptoms if they have had a hip replacement, and if so what type. If they have, their cobalt level should be tested.

As it turns out, the doctor himself was one of the two patients in his study. This is his opinion on that circumstance: “In my case and in the case of my patient I believe that causality is proven rather than suggested. … That I was a subject of my own report suggests that cobaltism is not rare in metal-on-metal implantees.”

Dr. Tower also reported additional symptoms from four other cases he researched. They include mental inefficiency, poor concentration, fatigue, headaches, convulsions, peripheral paresthesias, weight loss, slowed nerve conduction velocities, heart failure with tachycardia, systolic dysfunction, interstitial fibrosis, nail changes, dysgeusia, and muscle atrophy.


Background of the hip recall

The hip implants in question are as the ASR XL Acetabular System and DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing System. In August 2010, the DePuy Orthopaedics company, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, issued a voluntary recall of two hip replacement systems. DePuy stated that “13 percent of patients (1 in 8) who had received the ASR total hip replacement needed to have a revision surgery.”

With a faulty implant, as the ball and the socket of the metal joint rub against each other, friction scrapes off microscopic ions of cobalt and chromium. These particles enter the lubricating fluid that surrounds the implant. They also accumulate in nearby parts of the body, and flow through the bloodstream.

Protect yourself

 DePuy has offered to cover “reasonable and customary costs of testing and treatment, including revision surgery,” and to reimburse patients for “reasonable out-of-pocket expenses.”

Obviously the damage that can potentially be caused by one of these defective devices is far greater than that. The severity of the health issues involved and DePuy’s limited offer of compensation mean you need the counsel of an expert hip-replacement attorney. The attorneys at Egerton Law can help.

More information from Egerton Law:

Further background.

Documents requesting access to your medical records (Which you should not sign.)

Why, after revision surgery, you must retain possession of your removed hip joint (explant).

The story of a lost explant.


2 Comments
I had total hip replacement Nov. 2007. Having revision surgery Nov 2nd 2014. I have to have a bracket, with bone graphing due to the wear of my metal on metal hip. I have extremely high colbolt and chromium levels. My CT scan showed large cysts as well which need to be drained. I am American but live in Jeddah Saudi Arabia. Last surgery was here as well as the one in 2 weeks. I have had to pay cash for both surgeries because my insurance company doesn't cover it. Very upset and annoyed about this. I'm a very active 56, and now I am using crutches waiting for my surgery to come, extremely displaced to to the bone loss and stem loosening!
by Kamlah Crecely October 19, 2014 at 05:33 AM
I am researching tinnitus and came upon your report here about cobalt poisoning related to these hip implants. I expect your report was more helpful to my research than my comment is going to be to you since I know next to nothing about these implants or cobalt poisoning, I just thought I'd say thank you for this interesting footnote for my research.
by Pamela James April 1, 2011 at 07:48 PM
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