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General Orthopaedics


Current Concepts in Joint Replacement (CCJR) – Spring 2015


Metal-on-metal bearing surfaces were used frequently until recently because of the potential for decreased wear and the ability to use large femoral heads which can reduce instability. However, data reported in the Australian registry over the past 5 years demonstrated an increase in failure rates compared to metal-on-polyethylene bearings. In addition, adverse local tissue reactions (ALTR) associated with pseudotumors and destruction of the soft tissue around the joint have led to revision of these implants. Unfortunately, at the present time there is no optimal management strategy that has been delineated for metal-on-metal implants because of a lack of evidence. The biologic response to metal-on-metal implants is usually local but may be systemic. The management of these patients is complex because patients may have pseudotumors and/or elevated metal ion levels and be asymptomatic. In addition, there are a number of intrinsic causes (loosening, infection, iliopsoas tendinitis) and extrinsic causes (spinal disease, trochanteric bursitis) that can be a source of pain.

There is no evidenced based approach to manage these patients and no single test should be used to determine treatment. A thorough clinical evaluation is essential and blood tests are necessary to rule out infection. Imaging studies including plain radiographs and a MARS MRI are needed to evaluate either the stability of the prosthesis and to assess for the presence of pseudotumors and soft tissue destruction around the implant. Patients with symptomatic hips and evidence of muscle involvement on MRI require revision. Finally, the clinician must always be aware of the potential for systemic effects which require early and aggressive intervention to limit the adverse response to the metal and the metal bearing.