Incidence of metal sensitivity in patients with total joint replacements

M W Elves, J N Wilson, J T Scales, H B Kemp
British Medical Journal (1857-1980) 1975 November 15, 4 (5993): 376-8
Sensitivity to chromium, cobalt, nickel, molybdenum, vanadium, and titanium was studied by patch tests in 50 patients who had received total joint replacements. Nineteen (38%) were sensitive to one or more of the metals. In 23 patients non-traumatic failure of the prosthesis had occurred, and 15 of these patients were sensitive to metal. Out of 27 patients with no evidence of prosthesis loosening, four were sensitive to nickel and cobalt or nickel only. Dermatological reactions occurred in 13 patients after surgery; in only eight, however, was there evidence of metal sensitivity. These findings indicate that metal-on-metal total joint replacements may sensitise the patient to metals contained in the prosthesis. Although there is a high incidence of prosthesis failure among metal-sensitive patients it remains uncertain whether the loosening causes the sensitisation or vice versa.

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