A recently published study, Neurotoxcity of Cobalt, published in the May 2012 issue of the journal Human & Experimental Toxicology, a peer-reviewed journal, discusses evidence that cobalt in the blood system can cause long term health effects.
This study comes on the heels of the 2010 DePuy hip replacement device recall after it was discovered that the metal-on-metal hip implants were failing in patients at a higher than normal rate and that the rubbing of metal-on-metal caused shedding of cobalt and chromium debris at dangerous levels in patients’ tissue and bloodstream causing a condition referred to as metallosis.
Several studies theorized that cobalt and chromium in patients’ bloodstreams caused inflamed tissues, bone loss, pseudotumors as well as other problems. Now, this later study indicates that some patients with high levels of cobalt from their metal-on-metal prosthesis have experienced side effects including tinnitus, deafness, vertigo, vision problems, optic atrophy, tremors and nerve damage. The journal goes on to say that that cobalt can be toxic to vital organs such as the thyroid and heart and that it has the potential to cause cancer.
Upwards of one million of the metal-on-metal hip implants manufactured by DePuy, a division of Johnson and Johnson, have been implanted in patients in the past 15 years. Now, all of these patients are at risk for cobalt toxicity according to the researchers of the Neurotoxicity of Cobalt study.
Researchers found that the shedding of cobalt is at its highest levels up to two years after surgery and then increases again as the hip implant devices start to fail. The devices were marketed to younger patients with active life styles saying that they would last longer.
The civil claims against DePuy have mounted after the recall of the devices in the United States. In England, France and Australia, the devices were banned more than a year before they were recalled in the United States due to high failure rate yet DePuy continued to sell and market them in the U.S.
DePuy recommends that patients implanted with ASR XL Acetabular and Hip Resurfacing Systems contact their surgeon so that the surgeon can evaluate using xrays, imaging and blood tests the function of the hip and any possible damage to the bone and tissue surround the implant. On their web-site, DePuy recommends that should blood testing show high levels of metal particles after two blood tests that a replacement or revision surgery is recommended. DePuy has offered to pay for the costs of this testing.