Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery

, Volume 131, Issue 9, pp 1299–1308

Cobalt, chromium and molybdenum ions kinetics in the human body: data gained from a total hip replacement with massive third body wear of the head and neuropathy by cobalt intoxication


  • U. E. Pazzaglia
    • Orthopaedic ClinicUniversity of Brescia
  • P. Apostoli
    • Department of Experimental and Applied Medicine, Section of Industrial HygieneUniversity of Brescia
  • T. Congiu
    • Department of Human MorphologyUniversity of Insubria
  • S. Catalani
    • Department of Experimental and Applied Medicine, Section of Industrial HygieneUniversity of Brescia
  • M. Marchese
    • Orthopaedic ClinicUniversity of Brescia
    • Orthopaedic ClinicUniversity of Brescia
Hip Arthroplasty

DOI: 10.1007/s00402-011-1268-7

Cite this article as:
Pazzaglia, U.E., Apostoli, P., Congiu, T. et al. Arch Orthop Trauma Surg (2011) 131: 1299. doi:10.1007/s00402-011-1268-7



A patient with a total hip replacement developed optic, acoustic and peripheral neuropathy from metal ions intoxication, due to the wear products released from the prosthesis. Subsequently the kinetics of the metal ions was studied.

Materials and methods

Massive wear and acute intoxication allowed a study of the metal ions kinetics and of EDTA treatment.


Plasma and other organic fluids were saturated by each of the metal ions released from the exposed surface according to the solubility of each ion; a larger fraction of Co ions was bound within red cells, while the plasmatic fraction appeared more movable. In a patient with a prosthesis subjected to wear, the ions released are from the prosthetic and from the debris surface (spread in the body). The latter is a function of the number and size of particles.


Revision of the prosthesis from the point of view of the metal ions kinetics corresponded to a reduction of the releasing surface because of debris washed out by irrigation and tissue excision; however, the metal particles spread by lymphatic circulation continued to release ions even though the source of wear had been removed. Early diagnosis of high metal wear can be ascertained with mass spectrometry and after revision high levels of metal ions can only be reduced with repeated chelating treatment. It is preferable not to revise fractured ceramic components with a polyethylene–metal articulation.


Total hip replacementCobalt intoxicationMetal ionsForeign body reactionProsthetic wear

Supplementary material

402_2011_1268_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (168 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 168 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011