Failing Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants May Pose Health Risks by Releasing Toxic Nano-Particles

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

By: George Mikhail

Failing metal-on-metal hip replacements may be causing further medical complications by releasing toxic nano-particles. A new study published by the Journal of Chemical Communications indicates that the implants create toxic nano-particles that release Colbalt 2+ ions, which can be harmful to the genetic material of cells in addition to inflammation of tissue. According to a published report by Medicalexpress, these “genotoxic” ions have the potential to lead to further medical complications even after removing and replacing the hip implant.

Researchers from Imperial College of London and The Ohio State University have taken a novel approach that combines high resolution X-ray and electron microscopy to discover the underlying cause of the chronic inflammation in tissue samples from patients who have been affected by the failing metal-on-metal hip replacements. Researchers discovered that residual chromium is oxidized and Co²⁺ions are released as the nano-particles corrodes in the tissue, which causes the inflammation. Researchers have also concluded that the nano-particles accumulate in the white blood cells, where the corrosion process results in the cobalt to dissolve and release to surrounding tissue.

Dr. Mary Ryan, co-author of the paper from the department of Materials at Imperial College of London explains in a statement, ” We were able to meet patients who had these failing implants and we could see first-hand the chronic inflammation, pain and loss of mobility they experienced. Even though a huge number of patients have benefited from replacement surgery, we still don’t fully understand the long-term impacts that implantable materials have on our bodies.”

The team will next conduct research to better understand why the nano-particles are corroding when most of the alloy used in the metal-on-metal hip replacements is corrosion resistant. They also plan to use this corrective approach to explore other diseases which nanoscale materials may impact health.

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