Metal Hypersensitivity Reactions to Orthopedic Implants

Wendy Z W Teo, Peter C Schalock
Dermatology and Therapy 2017, 7 (1): 53-64
Total hip and knee replacement surgery using metal alloy devices is common. Type IV allergic reactions to these implants occur, though infrequently. While uncommon, peri-implant metal allergic reactions may cause significant morbidity for the affected individual-including aseptic loosening, pseudotumor formation and frank device failure. It is challenging to predict who will have these reactions, even in those with established pre-implant metal allergy. At this time, the scientific literature clearly supports few conclusions. Despite this, we believe several conclusions can be made: routine pre-implant testing in asymptomatic individuals is not indicated; listen to patient's concerns about metal allergy if the concern arises; patch testing is probably the best pre- and post-implant screening test; post-implantation testing is controversial and even positive LTT or patch test does not definitively diagnose morbidity from a metal allergy; and complete recovery following revision placement of an immunologically inert device is diagnostic. More research is needed to scientifically approach this issue.

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