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Elevated Cobalt Levels In Stryker Rejuvenate Patients
There are an increasing number of patients who underwent hip-replacement surgery and are finding out that they have “elevated” cobalt levels in their blood. One of the problems is that while we know that elevated cobalt blood levels are not healthy, there is not a great deal of information available about the long-term effects.
Orthopedic surgeons and metal toxicity expert are yet to agree upon ‘standard’ cobalt levels. They also do not agree when patients reach dangerous levels. However, they do agree that blood levels over 5 micrograms of cobalt must be regarded as abnormal when observing previous occupational studies on cobalt exposure through skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation. Because the metal wear debris is actually inside of the patient with these metal-on-metal hip implants, it has immediate access to the bloodstream and bodily tissue. This means that it is potentially even more dangerous than someone being exposed to an external cobalt source.
Are there any known long-term consequences?
As mentioned, the problems with these metal-on-metal hip implants have presented the medical community with a problem they have not previously dealt with before. However, the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry has demonstrated that if placed under the skin or directly into the muscle, cobalt will lead to the development of cancer in animals. When looking at the available research, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer does include cobalt present in hard metals as a potential carcinogen (a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue) in humans.
There are additional studies that demonstrate that cobalt exposure might lead to the initiation of an inflammatory process that increases the body’s hypersensitivity response and infiltrates the T-lymphocytes (T-cells). According to a study published in 2009, cellular inflammation may be a key contributor in relates to tumor formation, cellular malignancy, and perhaps the onset of cancer. Historical evidence and occupational studies also suggest that the aforementioned methods of cobalt exposure might lead to peripheral neuropathy, visual changes, dermatitis, hypothyroidism, cardiomyopathy, and other health problems.
Can removing the hip solve the problem?
Cobalt is not stored in our bones. It is not an accumulating metal. Instead, the body stores cobalt in the liver. This means that the metal is going to leave our body when we excrete urine. The red blood cells contaminated with cobalt have an average lifespan of three months. This means that if you remove the problem (remove the hip from the body) the blood levels should theoretically return to normal.
However, it is possible that the onset of a more serious ailment has already begun once the body’s inflammatory process starts. This means that ‘just’ removing the hip may not be enough. Even after blood levels have returned to normal and the exposure to cobalt has ceased, it is still important to continue monitoring the patient’s health.
While the exact effects may not be clear right away, we do know that it is likely to have negative consequences for that patient’s health. This not only leads to a great deal of uncertainty and stress for the patient and his/her family, but it may also have serious medical ramifications later on.