Metal-on-Metal Hip Implant Finds No Cancer Risk at 7 Years Post-Op, But Longer Follow-up Needed

A new study on the potential dangerous effects of metal-on-metal hip implants downplays the risk of cancer posed by these dangerous medical devices.

Researchers at the U.K.’s University of Bristol examined the negative effects of metal surfaced hip implants after seven years of use and was predicated on the multitude of reports of Englanders and other people in the U.K. who’ve already experienced one or several of the oft-reported side effects of receiving one of these implants.

While the study does note the risk of toxic metal poisoning caused by normal wear of these devices, researchers downplay the potential risk of cancer among recipients. Since the study only looks at the first seven years of a person’s life after they receive an all-metal hip implant, such as the DePuy Orthopaedics ASR or Pinnacle resurfacing components, it is unlikely they were going to find someone affected by cancer that’s been caused by the devices.

Cancer generally takes more than seven years to develop. Added to that, all-metal hip implants are generally recommended for younger recipients, typically a class of patients who are less prone to develop cancers. For the study, the U.K.’s National Joint Registry examine the records of nearly 300,000 people in England and Wales who received hip implants of any kind from 2003 until 2010. Of those, more than 40,000 people received an all-metal implant. Based on the findings in the Registry, there was no noticeable difference in cancer rates among people who received either type of device.

These findings may still lead prospective hip implant recipients and the surgeons charged with installing them to believe they are safer or more effective than an older style device. Based on the reports continually compiling from recipients of all-metal hips of their dangers, it’s clear more research is needed on the risk of cancer among people who receive them, especially after the seven-year mark.

The problem is that many recipients of an all-metal implant are unlikely to see that seventh year with these implants. The DePuy ASR device has already been recalled due to extremely high early failure rates. A study of some recipients of this and other metal hip implants suggests the early failure rate of the devices could be as high as 30 percent, meaning a recipient will have to schedule a revision or replacement surgery within five or ten years of receiving it.

While cancer may not be the primary concern, there have been some diagnoses of cancer that have been linked to all-metal implants. Still, the other risks posed by all-metal implants could be just as dangerous. As noted previously, the risk of toxic metal poisoning caused by normal wear-and-tear of the devices remains a top concern. The study from the U.K. did note this risk, showing that recipients of all-metal implants had high levels of the metals cobalt and chromium in their bloodstream and body organs. This can eventually lead to organ damage and organ failure.

Furthering the dangers, many all-metal implants rely on a flawed design that can give some recipients problems from day one wearing the device. Pain and inflammation at the site of the implant and eventual overall unexpected failures of the devices have resulted in thousands of revision and replacement surgeries and are expected to be the reason for thousands more in the future, as long as people rely on these devices instead of an older model with less risk of these side effects.

Even the study from the U.K. acknowledges the need for more research to be conducted, noting its own lack of long-term impacts and the risk of cancer posed by these devices.

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