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Cobaltism, or Cobalt poisoning, is a potentially serious health threat that is caused by exposure to dangerous levels of cobalt. Typically, cobalt poisoning occurs as a result of breathing in or otherwise ingesting cobalt or through exposure to the skin. However, the risks associated with Cobaltism have recently garnered much attention because it has now also been linked to metal-on-metal hip replacements that contain cobalt. Most notably, the recently recalled DePuy ASR hip implants have raised serious concerns about the risk for Cobaltism in patients receiving these implants. Other metal on metal implants with these cobalt concerns include the DePuy Pinnacle and Zimmer Durom Cups.

Generally, for Cobalt poisoning to occur, an individual must be exposed to cobalt at high levels for extended periods of time—several weeks or even months. Patients who have received metal-on-metal hip replacements, such as the DePuy ASR hip implants, are potentially vulnerable to the type of sustained exposure that gives rise to Cobaltism. The metal components of the hip implants, which contain Cobalt, release the element directly into the blood stream through the friction of the moving parts. The release of these elements can cause immediate tissue damage, pain, and discomfort. In the longer-term, among the list of serious health problems that this exposure causes and the recipients of the DePuy products face are: deafness, blindness, cognitive decline, headaches, convulsions, fatigue, weakenss, peripheral neuropathy, heart failure, and hypothyroidism.

Patients who have received these types of metal-on-metal hip replacements face the unfortunate situation of increased medical monitoring and testing. For many, a revision surgery will be necessary to prevent Cobalt poisoning. Patients who experience any of the following symptoms should seek medical attention to assess their risk of Cobaltism:

  • Swelling, pain, and discomfort
  • Dislocation or loosening of the implant
  • Clicking, popping, or grinding
  • Unexplained hip pain
  • Thigh or groin pain
  • Pain when walking, rising from a seated position, or bearing weight

Although medical studies continue to investigate and better understand the risks of Cobaltism from metal-on-metal hip replacements, it is clearly a serious issue, and possibly one that could have been avoided. If you or a loved one has had a metal-on-metal hip replacement, you may have legal remedies available to you for your pain and suffering. Already a number of lawsuits have emerged in the wake of the DePuy recalls and you should contact an attorney to discuss the details of your situation.

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