Could this be the beginning of the end for metal-on-metal hip implants?
Metal-on-metal hip implants are more likely to fail than devices made from other materials and should be banned, U.K. researchers said after reviewing the world’s largest database on hip replacements.
More than 500,000 patients in the U.S. and 40,000 in the U.K. have metal-on-metal hips and are at higher risk of device failure, according to the analysis, which was published today in The Lancet. Failure rates were as much as four times higher in women, who are likelier to have implants containing a larger prosthetic femoral head.
But this may be less cause for concern than a different kind of implants fail, which made the news late last month:
Nearly 50,000 hip-replacement patients will need annual medical checks as evidence grows that their metal implants can cause serious health problems, including severe pain and long-term disability. A leading manufacturer of the implants has known about potential dangers to patients since at least 2005, internal documents have revealed. Health regulators and the Department of Health have been aware since 2006.
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Possible dangers associated with the cobalt-chrome alloy used to make metal-on-metal hips have been documented since the mid-1970s. Tiny metal ions appear to break off from the implants and leak into the blood, causing local reactions that destroy muscle and bone, cause severe pain and even long-term disability. Studies have shown that the metal particles can seep into the bloodstream spreading to the lymph nodes, spleen, liver and kidneys before being excreted in urine. There are also concerns about damage to chromosomes, leading to genetic changes which could increase the risk of cancers.
Hip implants, like breast implants, have traditionally not had to pass any clinical trials before being used in patients. Instead, the manufacturer is only required to obtain a CE manufacturing mark from a “notified body” that assesses medical devices for European regulation. In America, total hip implants were previously “fast-tracked” for approval, however, all hip implants are now considered “high risk” and undergo greater scrutiny.
The BMJ investigation criticises the US and European regulators for failing to force manufacturers to carry out follow-up studies in patients implanted with devices known to be capable of producing toxic debris.
“This is one very large uncontrolled experiment exposing millions of patients to an unknown risk. We will only find out about the safety of these devices after large numbers of people have already been exposed,” said Michael Carome, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.
With apologies to Shelley, if hip implants come under fire, can dental implants be far behind?
Implanting anything in the jawbone will trigger an immune response. Titanium (metal) or “biocompatible” zirconia (ceramic) doesn’t matter. As we’ve noted before, an implant is an implant is an implant.
Why an immune response?
In the case of metal, the dentist will often top off the titanium post with a crown containing different metals. Often, the mouth already contains other metals, including “silver” mercury amalgam fillings. These differing metals create galvanic currents – electrical charges – that enhance the leaching of heavy metals into the oral tissues and surrounding bone. Free to migrate through the body, as described in the article above, heavy metals are especially drawn toward fatty tissues such as the liver and brain.
More, whether metal or ceramic, implants screwed into the bone interfere with the meridians – the energetic pathways that acupuncture works upon – which commonly end in regions of the head, ears and face. A disruption of energy is a disruption of information flow among cells, organs and other physiological structures. This primes conditions for the kind of genetic damage also theorized with respect to hip replacements.
Unsurprisingly, illness that have been linked to implants include cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis (MS), Lou Gehrig Disease (ALS), lupus and other inflammatory conditions.
Repeatedly, we’ve seen clients with implants and long histories of progressive, chronic illness, often autoimmune in nature. While the implants are by no means the single cause, they are almost always one of many contributing factors. Once the state of their biological terrain is improved and the implants and other obstacles removed, we see good, long-term healing, dentally and physiologically.
A metal-free bridge or removable partial (denture) made from biocompatible materials is always a better, safer bet than implants.
And if you have implants already? You needn’t – and shouldn’t – go rushing to have them removed. Instead, have an integrative dentist or physician trained in German biological medicine evaluate your situation. Biological terrain analysis (BTA), EAV and other assessment tools can give insight to burden the implants may be placing on the body. If they are having a negative effect, we can work with you to develop a safe, sensible and secure route to healing.
Image by dklimke, via Flickr