When metal-on-metal hip replacements first became available they were hailed as the wave of the future. What has since been discovered is that there have been a lot of instances of degradation and failure that have resulted in a wave of infections, revision surgeries and broader health complications.
We have touched on some of these issues in several previous posts, but there is one topic that perhaps deserves more attention -- cobalt toxicity. Cobalt is one of those elements found naturally in the environment. Small amounts of it are needed for optimal human and animal health. But too much of anything, even a good thing, can be bad for your health, and that has proven to be true when it comes to some defective metal-on-metal hip replacement devices.
The source of the cobalt in these cases is the replacement joint itself. Many manufacturers used cobalt because the hard metal was expected to make the devices last longer than previous models made of ceramic or plastic. What has since been found is that as the cobalt hips fail, the metal can erode and send flakes into the body.
Metallosis is one of many conditions that can result. That's characterized by metal building up in tissue near the joint and in the bloodstream. It can cause swelling, pain, numbness, bone loss and necrosis.
If cobalt toxicity is in play, patients may have any of those conditions but also be struck with fever and suffer from low thyroid levels. Some patients have suffered heart, vision, hearing and other organ damage due to cobalt toxicity.
The effects of long-term cobalt poisoning may be irreversible and control of symptoms may require taking medications for the rest of one's life.