Background: Metal-on-metal total hip prostheses will produce a certain amount of wear debris. This results in increased whole-blood metal levels, which may cause adverse effects. It is not known to what extent the problem has been overcome by advances in alloy technology.
Methods: In 259 patients who with total hip replacement, blood cobalt and chromium concentrations were measured with atomic absorption spectrophotometry over a period of four years after arthroplasty. Of the patients enrolled in the study, 131 had been managed with a METASUL cobalt-chromium alloy metal-on-metal bearing combination, while 128 had been given a SIKOMET-SM21 cobalt-chromium alloy metal-on-metal combination. The control group consisted of 31 age- and gender-matched subjects.
Results: Compared with the controls, all the patients had higher cobalt and chromium levels. Cobalt concentrations were up to 50 times higher, while chromium concentrations were up to 100 times higher.
Conclusions: Both systems showed evidence, in the whole-blood samples, of wear debris production by the implants. Therefore, patients managed with metal-on-metal bearing combinations should be carefully monitored in order to ensure that any local or systemic complications are detected early on.