There is no doubt that the majority of individuals who received the recalled DePuy ASR hip implants are worried about what the future holds for them.  Surely, recipients are paying attention to the obvious symptoms of hip replacement failure, which include grinding, popping and pain around the hip area.  However, recipients should also be aware of cobalt toxicity, which is an additional, yet silent, indicator of hip replacement failure that manifests itself outside of the hip area.  This week we came across a textbook example of a DePuy ASR hip recipient suffering from cobalt toxicity—but not experiencing actual hip pain—while reading the Philadelphia Inquirer.  In his quest to understand cobalt toxicity and its relationship to his DePuy ASR hip implant, the reader sought advice from medical columnist Dr. Mitchell Hecht about cobalt toxicity as a possible side effect of a defective DePuy ASR hip implant.  Dr. Hecht addressed and explained that cobalt toxicity is one of the dangerous and severe side effects that patients who received the defective DePuy ASR hip implants may suffer.  In the letter to Dr. Hecht, the DePuy ASR hip replacement recipient revealed that a blood test determined that his cobalt level was 12, which led his doctor to recommend that he undergo revision surgery.  The recipient wrote to Dr. Hecht:  “I’m very upset.  What will cobalt toxicity do to me?  So far, all I seem to have is an unexplained itchy leg rash for one year, which I think is from the hip.”  In response, Dr. Hecht explained that a cobalt level of 12 was, in fact, toxic.  In addition to agreeing to his doctor’s recommendation that he undergo revision surgery, Dr. Hecht explained that cobalt toxicity can lead to “peripheral neuropathy, visual impairment, heart muscle damage (cardiomyopathy), hearing loss, cognitive (brain) impairment and hypothyroidism.”

After reading the column and talking with many of our clients about the issues they are currently facing as a result of receiving a DePuy ASR hip implant, we felt that it was important to share this individual’s story with you.  What do we want you to take away from this?  Even if your DePuy ASR hip feels fine, there are other symptoms of hip replacement failure that you should be mindful of, such as cobalt poisoning.  In the case described above, a leg rash was the only symptom the reader had to indicate that his hip was failing.  Even if you are currently asymptomatic, we cannot stress enough how important it is to:  (1) visit your doctor and ask for a blood test to determine your chromium and cobalt levels; and (2) keep a journal of any and all changes to your general health that you have had or may currently be experiencing—as illustrated above, even a rash could be indicative of a serious problem.

To read Dr. Hecht’s medical column from this week’s Philadelphia Inquirer, click here.

Published June 17, 2011 by