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Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants
SJR: 0.332 SNIP: 0.491 CiteScore™: 0.89

ISSN Print: 1050-6934
ISSN Online: 1940-4379

Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants

DOI: 10.1615/JLongTermEffMedImplants.2014010261
pages 37-44

Metal Sensitivities Among TJA Patients with Post-Operative Pain: Indications for Multi-Metal LTT Testing

Marco S. Caicedo
Orthopedic Analysis, LLC, Chicago, IL 60612; Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60612
Edward Solver
Orthopedic Analysis, LLC, Chicago, IL 60612
Latasha Coleman
Orthopedic Analysis, LLC, Chicago, IL 60612
Nadim James Hallab
Orthopedic Analysis, LLC, Department of Immunology, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60612

ABSTRACT

Metal sensitivity testing is generally the diagnosis method of last resort for aseptic painful implants with elevated inflammatory responses. However, the relationship between implant-related pain and implant-debris-related metal sensitization remains incompletely understood. Although a sensitivity to nickel alone has been used as a general measure of metal allergy, it may lack the specificity to correlate sensitivity to specific implant metals and thus to select a biologically appropriate implant material. In this retrospective study, we report the incidence of pain and nickel sensitivity in patients with total joint arthroplasties (TJAs) referred for metal sensitivity testing (n=2018). We also correlated the degree of nickel hypersensitivity to implant pain levels (none, mild, moderate, and high, using a scale of 0−10) and the incidence of sensitivity to alternative implant metals in highly nickel-reactive subjects. Most patients (>79%) reported pain levels that were moderate to high regardless of implant age, whereas patients with severely painful TJAs had a statistically greater incidence of nickel sensitivity over the short-term post-operative period (≤4 years). Patients with moderate pain scores (4−7) and high pain scores (≥8) also exhibited significantly higher sensitivity to nickel compared to patients with no pain and no implant (controls) (p<0.05). Highly nickel-sensitive subjects (SI>8) also showed incidences of sensitization to alternative materials such as cobalt, chromium, or molybdenum (57%) or aluminum or vanadium alloy (52%). These data suggest that painful TJAs caused by metal sensitivity more likely occur relatively early in the post-operative period (≤4 years). The incidences of sensitivity to alternative implant metals in only a subset of nickel-reactive patients highlights the importance of testing for sensitization to all potential revision implant materials.