Metal-on-metal bearings total hip arthroplasty: the cobalt and chromium ions release concern

Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2010 Dec;96(8):894-904. doi: 10.1016/j.otsr.2010.05.008. Epub 2010 Sep 15.


With certain concerns recently reported on metal-on-metal bearing couples in total hip arthroplasty, this study's objective is to review the current knowledge concerning release of metal ions and its potential consequences. Each metal-on-metal implant presents different tribological properties. The analytical techniques for metals are accurate and the Co ion rates seem acceptable up to 2 μg/L. A delayed type IV hypersensitivity reaction (atypical lymphocytic vasculitis-associated lesion [ALVAL]) may be the source of arthroplasty failure. Idiosyncratic, it remains unpredictable even using cutaneous tests and apparently is rare (0.3%). Today, there are no scientific or epidemiologic data supporting a risk of carcinogenesis or teratogenesis related to the use of a metal-on-metal bearings couple. Solid pseudotumors nearly exclusively are observed with resurfacing procedures, carrying a high annual revision rate in women under 40 years of age, occurring particularly in cases of acetabular malposition and with use of cast molded Cr-Co alloys. Osteolysis manifests through complete and progressive radiolucent lines or through cavitary lesions stemming from ALVAL-type alterations or impingement problems or implant incompatibility. The formation of wear debris exceeding the biological tolerance is possible with implant malposition, subluxation, and jamming of the femoral head in cases of cup deformity. Moreover, each implant presents different metal ion production; assessment of their performance and safety is required before their clinical use. With the knowledge available today, metal-on-metal bearing couples are contraindicated in cases of metal allergies or end stage renal dysfunction and small size resurfacing should cautiously be used.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromium / analysis*
  • Chromium / toxicity*
  • Cobalt / analysis*
  • Cobalt / toxicity*
  • Equipment Failure Analysis*
  • Female
  • Granuloma, Plasma Cell / etiology*
  • Hip Prosthesis*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Delayed / etiology*
  • Ions / analysis*
  • Male
  • Metals / toxicity*
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Osteolysis / etiology
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Risk Factors
  • Vasculitis, Leukocytoclastic, Cutaneous / etiology*


  • Ions
  • Metals
  • Chromium
  • Cobalt