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Early this year, DePuy issued their recall for the ASR XL Acetabular System sold in the United States. Doctors began recommending revision surgery to those of their patients who reported pain or an overall failure of the DePuy hip implant. In many cases, the doctor was wise enough to run a blood test to determine whether there was excess metal in the bloodstream, as many medical studies have shown that elevated levels of metal are common for patients with metal-on-metal hip implants.

Patient after patient with the ASR Acetabular DePuy hip implant began turning up with cobalt and chromium levels that were well over 100 times normal.

Cobalt poisoning has been getting a great deal of attention and for good reason: the symptoms of cobalt poisoning include many serious side effects including neurological (brain) damage, heart irregularities, and seizures. Cobalt poisoning has also been linked to cancer. It’s small wonder that many people, when they first learn that the DePuy hip implant leaks metal ions into the body, are primarily concerned about cobalt poisoning.

However, chromium poisoning is equally dangerous. And the symptoms are just as troubling.

Patients with elevated chromium levels show similar symptoms as those with elevated cobalt levels. There are notable differences; cobalt poisoning can cause cardiomyopathy, for example, while elevated chromium levels do not appear to cause heart problems but can cause problems with the reproductive system. The table below gives an overview of the symptoms shown by patients with elevated chromium levels vs. those with elevated cobalt levels.

If a particular type of chromium or cobalt has been specifically linked to a symptom, it is noted in parentheses next to the symptom. For example, mutated DNA is noted as being linked specifically to Chromium III.

 

Elevated Cobalt (Co) Levels

Elevated Chromium (Cr) Level

Genetic Information

  • Inability to repair DNA, reduce gene expression Co (II)
  • Can mutate DNA (Cr III)
  • Inability to repair DNA, reduced gene expression Cr (VI)

Localized tissue around the implant

  • Hypersensitivity
  • Inflammation
  • Infiltration of lymphocytes
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Inflammation
  • Infiltration of lymphocytes

Liver

 

  • Necrosis at high levels of Cr (VI)

Kidney

  • Co excreted by the liver
  • Can impair liver function

Respiratory System

  • Asthma
  • Shortness of breath
  • Asthma
  • Shortness of breath

Nervous System

 

  • Oxidative Damage (Cr VI)

Heart and Vascular Systems

  • Possible cardiomyopathy

 

Endocrine System

  • Potential to alter the production of sex hormones Co (II)
  • Potential to induce hyothyroidism Co(II)
  • Potential to alter the production of sex hormones Cr (VI)

Visual and Auditory System

  • Loss of hearing
  • Vision Impairments
  • Loss of hearing
  • Vision Impairments

Reproductive System

 

  • Decreased sperm Cr (VI)
  • Abnormalities in sperm Cr (VI)
  • Reduced number of follicles Cr (VI)

 

Carcinogenesis

  • May lead to an increased risk of cancer
  • May lead to an increased risk of cancer

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