Which Is Best: a Metal or Ceramic Hip Replacement?

Which Is Best: a Metal or Ceramic Hip Replacement?

Both metal and ceramic hip replacements have advantages and disadvantages, which should be discussed between the patient and his surgeon, and careful consideration of the weight-bearing material used in a hip replacement is worthwhile, according to Mayo Clinic. The majority of recently approved implant materials have been shown to have implant- or patient-specific drawbacks, even if those drawbacks occur infrequently.

Treating an arthritic hip with total hip arthroplasty is one of the most commonly prescribed orthopaedic procedures today. Advances in artificial bearing surfaces have made the decision over which material to choose an important one for patients considering the procedure. Metal hip replacements that use plastic spacers between the ball and hip joint are most common, according to About.com, but the plastics used in the spacing material tend to wear faster than all-metal and ceramic implants.

Traditional metal-on-metal replacements raise concerns about the debris generated by joint friction, which provoke allergies in about 1 in 1,000 patients, Mayo Clinic reports. Metal ions have been detected in the blood throughout patients' bodies and accumulate with time, though any link to an increased risk of cancer is theoretical at present.

Ceramic-on-ceramic implants wear better, but concerns about long-term durability, cracking and breaking, have been raised. Ceramic implants have fallen out of favor recently, owing to noticeable squeaking in the joint, which occurs in 1 to 2 percent of patients, according to Mayo Clinic.

New cross-linked plastic implants, formed of a polyethylene designed to wear more gradually than traditional plastics, have not been in use long enough to determine possible drawbacks, according to About.com.