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An analysis of metal ion levels in the joint fluid of symptomatic patients with metal-on-metal hip replacements

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We retrospectively analysed concentrations of chromium and cobalt ions in samples of synovial fluid and whole blood taken from a group of 92 patients with failed current-generation metal-on-metal hip replacements. We applied acid oxidative digestion to our trace metal analysis protocol, which found significantly higher levels of metal ion concentrations in blood and synovial fluid than a non-digestive method. Patients were subcategorised by mode of failure as either ‘unexplained pain’ or ‘defined causes’. Using this classification, chromium and cobalt ion levels were present over a wider range in synovial fluid and not as strongly correlated with blood ion levels as previously reported. There was no significant difference between metal ion concentrations and manufacturer of the implant, nor femoral head size below or above 50 mm. There was a moderately positive correlation between metal ion levels and acetabular component inclination angle as measured on three-dimensional CT imaging.

Our results suggest that acid digestion of samples of synovial fluid samples is necessary to determine metal ion concentrations accurately so that meaningful comparisons can be made between studies.

Correspondence should be sent to Mr K. Davda; e-mail: kdavda@gmail.com or Mr A. J. Hart; email: a.hart@imperial.ac.uk

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