Metal Hip Implants and Risks of Cobaltism: What are appropriate cobalt blood levels?

November 29, 2010
(updated March 7, 2011)

In light of recent news linking metal-on-metal (MoM) hip implants to metal toxicity, many patients are wondering what are acceptable levels of chromium and cobalt in their blood?

According to an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Dr. Brian Klatt, levels in excess of 0.3 micrograms of chromium are considered abnormal, while more than 5 micrograms of cobalt are considered toxic. However, it should be noted that as of yet no data has been established to standardize what constitutes toxicity for either chromium or cobalt.

A number of doctors are advising that patients with cobalt levels greater than 7 should have their hip replaced with an implant that does not contain cobalt. Other doctors state that patients with cobalt levels over 5 should be heavily monitored and may require a revision surgery. According to the Alaska Medical Journal, patients with a cobalt level of greater than 7 mcg/l should be under regular observation for cardiac and neurological problems. And undoubtedly, patients with a cobalt level higher than 20 mcg/l have been advised by medical professionals to undergo hip revision surgery to have their metal implant replaced with a non-metal implant, or a hip implant that does not contain cobalt or chromium.

Cobaltism, or cobalt toxicity, has been known to cause conditions including:

  • tinnitis
  • dementia
  • heart failure
  • deafness
  • vertigo
  • visual changes
  • rashes
  • hypothyroidism
  • tremor
  • dyspnea on exertion
  • mood disorders
  • peripheral neuropathy

What to do if you suspect you may have a metal-on-metal hip implant

If you have undergone hip replacement surgery and are concerned that you may be suffering from cobaltism, the first thing you should do is contact your doctor to find out which device was implanted in your body. Find out if a metal device was used and, if so, make sure your doctor monitors your blood cobalt levels. If the device used was the DePuy ASR XL Acetabular or ASR Resurfacing system, which were recalled in August 2010, you should make sure you are under the regular care of a physician who will perform the appropriate tests to monitor your health and determine whether you will need a revision surgery. Additionally, you should contact a medical device recall attorney to discuss your claim against DePuy.

If you need assistance in assessing whether or not your implant is a recalled device, our team can help in obtaining your medical records and establishing whether or not you have a valid claim.

Contact an Experienced Medical Device Recall Lawyer

Our medical device recall lawyers are experienced in successfully litigating lawsuits against major device manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson (the parent company to DePuy Orthopedics). Fill out the contact form on this page or call us toll free at 888-285-3333 for a free and confidential case evaluation.

Visit the FDA's website for more information about metal-on-metal implants

For more information on cobalt & chromium toxicity, visit our new website that features in-depth interviews with renown metal toxicology expert:

Hip Recall Resource Center

For more information on cobalt & chromium toxicity, visit our new website that features in-depth interviews with renown metal toxicology expert:

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