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Metal Hypersensitivity and Orthopedic Implants: Survey of Orthopedic Surgeons

Hallock, Katherine MD; Vaughn, Natalie H. MD; Juliano, Paul MD; Marks, James G. Jr MD

doi: 10.1097/DER.0000000000000236

Background There is no clear consensus among orthopedic surgeons concerning metal hypersensitivity screening and orthopedic implants.

Objective This study investigated practices and opinions about metal hypersensitivity and orthopedic implants via a survey administered to practicing orthopedists.

Methods A questionnaire was sent to members of the Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society electronically. Respondents were asked about preoperative and postoperative screening habits concerning metal hypersensitivity and implants.

Results Forty-four physicians completed the survey. Only 11% of respondents reported that they always or often screen patients for metal hypersensitivity. Fifty percent of respondents stated that they only rarely refer patients for patch testing (and the remainder never do). If, however, patients were found to have a positive patch test, most providers were very likely to use a different implant. Other respondents were skeptical of the relationship between metal hypersensitivity and implant failure. Dermatitis, pain, and loosening were common reasons for postoperative testing. Seventy percent of respondents said that patch testing rarely or never changed their decision making.

Conclusions This study is reflective of the lack of consensus between orthopedists regarding patch testing. It demonstrates the diversity of opinions among orthopedists, the need for additional dialogue between orthopedic and dermatology specialties, and the need for larger studies investigating outcomes and metal hypersensitivity.

From the Departments of *Dermatology and †Orthopaedics, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Penn State Health, Hershey PA.

Address reprint requests to Natalie Vaughn, MD, Department of Orthopaedics, 30 Hope Dr, EC089, PO Box 859, Hershey, PA 17033. E-mail:

The study was supported by Orthopaedic Research Initiation Grant through the Penn State Health Department of Orthopaedics.

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to declare.

© 2017 American Contact Dermatitis Society
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