14 Nov 2016

Random Case Report - Loss of Senses After Hip Replacement

  • Cobalt = bluish gray metal - mixed with chromium and molybdenum (other metals) to make an alloy found in artificial hips and knees - the alloy makes good joints since it's hard, resists corrosion, and resists the wear associated with the frequent movement of a joint
  • Although we need a tiny bit of cobalt in our diet for our bodies to work properly, in higher doses it can cause serious health problems
  • A middle-aged man had surgery to replace his damaged hip with a ceramic one, experienced persistent pain afterward, then had another surgery to replace the ceramic head of the joint with one made of a cobalt-containing alloy in an effort to improve its function and fix the pain issue
  • Two years later, his ability to see and hear started to fade - it got to the point he could only make out outlines and colors, and he needed a hearing aid - also his feet went numb, the skin on his head and neck became inflamed, and to top it all off his hip started to hurt again
  • Taking a closer look, doctors found that the level of cobalt in his body had increased after the second surgery, and an X-ray revealed that the metal head of the hip joint had been worn down where it was in contact with the ceramic socket, releasing cobalt into his body
  • A third surgery revealed that the area around his hip was stained with black metal debris - surgeons drained more than half a litre of black fluid from the hip joint!
  • The messed up joint was removed, the surrounding body parts cleaned up, and another artificial hip was implanted - afterward, the man's cobalt levels declined, his sight and hearing returned, and the foot numbness and skin inflammation he was experiencing disappeared
  • Lesson = don't replace part of an artificial joint with a part made by a different manufacturer
Acta Orthopaedica - Severe Cobalt Poisoning with Loss of Sight After Ceramic-Metal Pairing in a Hip—A Case Report

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