Plasma metal ion levels are commonly used in the postoperative follow-up evaluation of patients who have had a metal-on-metal hip arthroplasty. However, the relationship between these levels and clinical and imaging findings is not well known.Methods:
We evaluated 156 consecutive patients who received a unilateral ASR XL total hip replacement. Patients presented, regardless of symptoms, in response to a voluntary recall of the hip replacement by the manufacturer and were assessed with regard to the presence and type of symptoms and plasma cobalt-chromium levels. In addition, radiographic and magnetic resonance imaging studies were performed and analyzed.Results:
Eighty patients were asymptomatic, and seventy-six patients were symptomatic. The median cobalt level was 1.8 ppb, and the median chromium level was 1.0 ppb (at or below measurement threshold). Pseudotumors that could be detected on magnetic resonance imaging were seen in 69% (107) of 156 patients, and radiographic osteolysis was evident in 7% (eleven patients). At a threshold of 5 ppb, no association was detected between abnormal metal ion levels and patient symptoms, prosthetic femoral head size, or acetabular cup inclination. An abnormal cobalt level was significantly associated with the presence of periprosthetic lucency on radiographs and pseudotumor on magnetic resonance imaging (p < 0.05). An abnormal chromium level showed a similar pattern, but the relationships did not reach significance. Both abnormal plasma cobalt and chromium levels were associated with larger sizes of pseudotumor when present (p < 0.05).Conclusions:
In our sample, with a threshold of 5 ppb, abnormal plasma metal ions were associated with larger sizes of pseudotumors when present, but were not predictive of patient symptoms. Abnormal plasma cobalt levels have a significant association with periprosthetic lucency and presence of pseudotumor. Plasma chromium shows a similar pattern of association with lucency and presence of pseudotumor, although the relationships were not significant. Metal ion analysis should be used in conjunction with clinical and imaging evaluation and not as a sole indirect screening test when evaluating patients following metal-on-metal hip arthroplasty.Level of Evidence:
Diagnostic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.