Complications of cobalt toxicity from a hip replacement include heart issues, hypothyroidism, fatigue, rashes and pain, states the American College of Rheumatology. Patients may also suffer weakness or loss of taste, smell and hearing. If the disease is caught early, removing the implant can reverse the symptoms.
Cobalt toxicity occurs when the metal in a prosthetic implant wears down inside the body, releasing cobalt into the bloodstream, explains the American College of Rheumatology. Recent data shows that this is a risk with metal-on-metal and metal-on-polyethylene implants. Some of the heart conditions that arise from cobalt toxicity include cardiomyopathy, tachycardia and heart failure. Not all patients may experience the same symptoms, so a diagnosis may be difficult to obtain unless a doctor is familiar with the condition.
Patients who are at higher risk for cobalt poisoning from an implant include women, overweight patients, those who are very active, those taking high doses of corticosteroids and those with suppressed immune systems, reports the American College of Rheumatology. The FDA recommends screening patients every one to two years after their hip replacement surgeries. Rheumatologists who suspect cobalt toxicity may order a blood panel and an MRI to confirm, then they can work with the patient's orthopedic surgeon to develop a treatment plan.