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Cobalt Toxicity and Other Metal Hip Replacement Side Effects

Thousands of patients who received metal hip implants reported serious problems. High failure rates, serious side effects from metal debris in the body, and complications such as cobalt toxicity have prompted recalls, lawsuits, and government action. This article provides a brief overview of cobalt toxicity and other metal hip replacement side effects.

Metal Hip Replacements

Manufacturers first designed metal hip replacements to improve upon plastic and ceramic hip replacements. The hip joint is commonly called a "ball and socket" joint. As a person moves his or her legs, the femoral head (ball) at the top of the femur (thigh bone) grinds against the acetabulum (socket) of the pelvis. The hip joint necessarily involves significant friction between the femoral head and the acetabulum. Patients whose hip joints become diseased (especially by osteoarthritis) or damaged (especially from strenuous physical activity) can develop hip pain and mobility problems. Many turn to hip replacement surgery as a solution.

Metal hip implants were once the wave of the future. While most patients who choose hip replacement surgery are over the age of 50, the promise of longer-lasting replacement hips proved attractive to younger patients as well. The resulting boom in hip replacement surgery has made it one of the most common surgical procedures out there. Today in the United States, doctors perform an estimated 285,000 hip replacement surgeries each year.

Patient Injuries: Implant Failure, Metallosis, and Cobalt Toxicity

Unfortunately, metal hip replacements have proven to be a disappointment. Thousands of patients have suffered serious complications from metal hip replacements. Some of the more common problems include implant failure and metallosis, including cobalt toxicity.

Implant Failure

Patients with metal hip replacements have had to replace their hip implants at higher-than-expected rates. Hip joints naturally involve considerable friction, and this friction can cause components to wear and eventually break. In most cases, a failing hip replacement needs to be surgically replaced. Some medical studies have found failure rates for metal hip replacements reach as high as 50% within six years of surgery.

Cobalt Toxicity

Many metal hip replacements were constructed using a hard metal called cobalt in order to extend the life of the hip replacement. As hip replacements fail and metal flakes enter the body, patients can suffer from cobalt toxicity (elevated cobalt levels). Besides the symptoms associated with other forms of metallosis, cobalt toxicity can cause patients to suffer from fever, inflammation, and low thyroid levels. Some patients have also reported heart failure, loss of vision, loss of hearing, and organ damage.


Failing metal hip replacements can also lead to metallosis. When metal grinds on metal, metal "flakes" can rub off the hip replacement implant and seep into a patient's body. The result can be a build-up of metal debris in nearby tissue and in the bloodstream. Patients can experience pain around the hip joint, swelling and inflammation, numbness, bone loss, tissue death, and renewed mobility problems. These metal flakes can also travel to nearby organs such as the heart, leading to further complications.

Recalls and Lawsuits

Most manufacturers no longer sell metal hip replacements. Widespread patient injuries led to increased regulatory focus, numerous medical studies, and negative publicity. In addition, thousands of patients have filed product liability lawsuits against manufacturers seeking compensation for their injuries.

Some manufacturers have already agreed to settle these hip replacement lawsuits. Johnson and Johnson, the parent company of DePuy Orthopedics, agreed to settle some 8,000 lawsuits for an estimated $2.5 billion. Lawsuits against other metal hip replacement manufacturers are ongoing.

Filing a Claim for Cobalt Toxicity From a Hip Replacement? An Attorney Can Help

If you've suffered from illnesses related to an artificial hip replacement, you may be eligible for monetary compensation, either by joining a settlement or filing a new products liability lawsuit. Even if you haven't experienced symptoms of illness, you may be eligible for a new replacement in addition to other damages if you qualify.

Discuss your options with an experienced product liability attorney today.

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