Background: A concern regarding the use of metal-on-metal bearings in hip arthroplasty has been that the high levels of metal ions that are released overwhelm the renal threshold for metal excretion, leading to systemic buildup of metals. The purpose of this investigation was to determine if the physiological renal capacity for cobalt clearance and cobalt concentrating efficiency is overwhelmed by the elevation in metal ion levels seen in patients with metal-on-metal-bearing hip devices.
Methods: Concurrent specimens of urine and plasma were obtained from a group of 461 patients (346 men and 115 women) at various intervals after either a unilateral (296) or a bilateral (130) metal-on-metal hip arthroplasty or preoperatively (thirty-five patients; the control specimens). Metal ion analyses were performed with high-resolution inductively coupled mass spectrometry. Renal efficiency was measured as the ratio of urine cobalt concentration to plasma cobalt concentration. Cobalt clearance was calculated by dividing the urine cobalt output in twenty-four hours by the plasma cobalt concentration. Dividing the quotient by 1440 adjusts it to clearance per minute.
Results: The median renal efficiency was found to be 0.9 in the analysis of the preoperative specimens, indicating that there was renal conservation of cobalt. In patients with metal-on-metal bearings, the median renal efficiency was 3.2, indicating that, as a result of cobalt excretion, the cobalt concentration in urine was threefold higher than the concentration in plasma. Linear regression analysis showed that renal efficiency progressively increased at a rate of 9% for every μg/24 hr increase in cobalt release. Cobalt clearance showed a similar trend, increasing from 1.3 mL/min in the preoperative group to 3.7 mL/min in the follow-up group. In the follow-up group, renal cobalt clearance progressively increased from 1.9 to 7.1 mL/min with increasing daily cobalt output, which indicates that with increasing in vivo metal ion release there was a progressive increase in the rate at which the kidneys cleared the plasma of cobalt.
Conclusions: In subjects with no prosthetic device, the kidneys tend to conserve cobalt in the body. We found that, in patients with a metal-on-metal hip prosthesis, there is a progressive increase in cobalt clearance with increasing in vivo wear at the levels of cobalt release expected in patients with an array of metal-on-metal-bearing total joint arthroplasties. We found no threshold beyond which renal capacity to excrete these ions is overwhelmed.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level II. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
1The McMinn Centre, 25 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3DP, United Kingdom. E-mail address for J. Daniel: firstname.lastname@example.org
2Research and Teaching Centre, Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, Northfield, Birmingham B31 2AP, United Kingdom