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Adverse local tissue reactions in metal-on-polyethylene total hip arthroplasty due to trunnion corrosion

the risk of misdiagnosis

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Adverse reaction to wear and corrosion debris is a cause for concern in total hip arthroplasty (THA). Modular junctions are a potential source of such wear products and are associated with secondary pseudotumour formation.

We present a consecutive series of 17 patients treated at our unit for this complication following metal-on-highly cross-linked polyethylene (MoP) THA. We emphasise the risk of misdiagnosis as infection, and present the aggregate laboratory results and pathological findings in this series.

The clinical presentation was pain, swelling or instability. Solid, cystic and mixed soft-tissue lesions were noted on imaging and confirmed intra-operatively. Corrosion at the head–neck junction was noted in all cases. No bacteria were isolated on multiple pre- and intra-operative samples yet the mean erythrocyte sedimentation rate was 49 (9 to 100) and C-reactive protein 32 (0.6 to 106) and stromal polymorphonuclear cell counts were noted in nine cases.

Adverse soft–tissue reactions can occur in MoP THA owing to corrosion products released from the head–neck junction. The diagnosis should be carefully considered when investigating pain after THA. This may avoid the misdiagnosis of periprosthetic infection with an unidentified organism and mitigate the unnecessary management of these cases with complete single- or two-stage exchange.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2015;97-B:1024–1030.

Correspondence should be sent to Mr M. R. Whitehouse; e-mail:

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