Z Orthop Unfall 2020; 158(04): 369-382
DOI: 10.1055/a-0929-8121

Metal Ion Release after Hip and Knee Arthroplasty – Causes, Biological Effects and Diagnostics

Article in several languages: English | deutsch
Jörg Lützner
1  University Center of Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery, TU Dresden
Klaus-Peter Günther
1  University Center of Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery, TU Dresden
Anne Postler
1  University Center of Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery, TU Dresden
Michael Morlock
2  Institute of Biomechanics, Hamburg University of Technology
› Author Affiliations


All metal implants in human bodies corrode which results in metal ions release. This is not necessarily a problem and represents for most patients no hazard. However, if a critical metal ion concentration is exceeded, local or rarely systemic problems can occur. This article summarizes the mechanisms of metal ion release and its clinical consequences. Several situations can result in increased metal ion release: metal-on-metal hip arthroplasties with increased wear, increased micromotion at taper interfaces, direct metal-metal contact (polyethylene wear, impingement), erroneously used metal heads after ceramic head fracture. Possible problems are in most cases located close to the concerned joint. Furthermore, there are reports about toxic damage to several organs. Most of these reports refer to erroneously used metal heads in revisions after a broken ceramic head. There is currently no evidence of carcinogenic or teratogenic effects of implants but data is not sufficient to exclude possible effects. Cobalt and chromium blood levels (favorably in whole blood) should be measured in patients with suspected elevated metal ions. According to current knowledge levels below 2 µg/l seem to be uncritical, levels between 2 and 7 µg/l are considered borderline with unknown biological consequences and levels above 7 µg/l indicate a local problem which should be further diagnosed. Metal ion levels always need to be interpreted together with clinical symptoms and imaging results.

Publication History

Publication Date:
09 December 2019 (online)

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