What Is Metallosis?
Metallosis, like its name suggests, is an accumulation of toxic metals in the bloodstream and adjacent tissues. Commonly, it occurs when metal fragments flake off of hip or other implant types, and many who underwent hip implants in the past developed this condition.
Metallosis occurred with metal-on-metal hip implants, popular in the 1970s. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint, and walking causes the acetabulum (socket) to rub against the femoral head (ball). Many recipients chose metal replacements for their long-lasting durability. However, implant failure and metallosis led to this type of hip replacement falling out of favor.
Problems Associated With Metal Hip Implants
Friction releases toxic metals in a process called fretting, where fragments of metal chip off the implant. This can lead to the following complications:
- The implant can loosen, causing many issues, including hip displacement.
- Failure of the implant can be a result of metal chipping.
- The hip joint can become painful with movement.
- Infection is a possibility when metal chips off the implant.
- Inflammation can cause swelling at the site of the hip implant.
- Metal toxicity occurs as the chips enter the adjacent tissues and bloodstream.
- Necrosis or death of tissue and bone cells can happen.
- Metal toxicity occurs in many recipients.
- Bone deterioration is a common outcome of metal toxicity.
- Neurological problems can be caused by metal toxicity.
After the metal chips off the implant and enters the surrounding tissue, it leaches into the bloodstream where it causes metallosis. This toxic metal level can result in the following health conditions:
- Kidney damage: The kidneys are damaged by the heavy concentration of metals in the bloodstream and fail to function appropriately.
- Cardiac problems: Metallosis can lead to heart failure and an enlarged heart.
- Thyroid problems: The thyroid gland may stop functioning appropriately, resulting in hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid.
- Fatalities: Deaths have occurred due to infection after revision surgery.
Warnings for Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants
Patients should be made aware of symptoms associated with metallosis such as swelling, pain and loss of function. One company (Stryker) said their metal-on-metal (MoM) hip implants were safe, and fretting would not occur. This deceptive sales practice led to many problems. Allegations that the company knew the implant would cause metallosis but did not recall their product arose.
Recoverable Damages Associated With a Metallosis Lawsuit
The most common damages are:
- Lost income: The current and future wages lost due to metallosis are covered.
- Medical costs: Expenses such as hospital and doctor bills, rehabilitation and at-home care are covered. So is the cost of assistive devices and nursing visits in the home.
- Loss of consortium: A spouse can join the lawsuit and file a claim for the loss of companionship and affection due to the implant.
- Pain and suffering: The lawsuit also covers the emotional, physical and psychological damage inflicted on the injured party.
- Punitive damages: This type of damage is meant to punish the company for its egregious acts. Usually, the amount is much higher than that of compensatory damages.