Can blood tests of the ASR DePuy Hip Implant recall conducted by Lab Corp mislead orthopedic physicians that read the results regarding Cobalt levels?

After DePuy Orthopaedics made a major announcement recalling two of their major hip implant devices in August of 2010 (DEPUY ASR XL ACETABULAR HIP SYSTEM &DEPUY ASR HIP RESURFACING SYSTEM), the company recommended those patients directly affected get blood tests done by their doctors.  The reason for this recommendation is to determine whether the patient, who is affected by the Recalled DePuy Hip Implant, has high levels of chromium and cobalt presented in their bodies.  Elevated levels are a precursor to an inflammatory response that results in eventual necrosis and resorption of bone that leads to physical symptoms that the patient may experience from the ASR device.  There are also significant other medical problems that a patient may experience by having toxic level of cobalt or chromium in their system as well. The really concerning part of this is that many patients do not know they are experiencing problems until the issue becomes critical and potentially life threatening.

From the Recalled ASR Hip Implant itself, the device can release metal particles and go into the patient’s bloodstream and/or tissue.  A high level of cobalt released into a patient’s tissue and/or bloodstream can damage the patient’s tissues, bones and/or organs.  Consequences of a toxic cobalt levels include, but are not limited to: tinnitus (ringing of the ears), blindness, pain, and other conditions.

Here is a close look at the Recalled DePuy Hip Implant.

 

What exactly is cobalt?  According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Register (ATSDR), cobalt is a naturally occurring element that can be found in water, plants, animals, rocks, and soil.  The element is used in the manufacturing of aircraft engines, grinding and cutting tools, magnets, and artificial hip and knee joints.  Cobalt can benefit or harm human health.  In the case of a hip implant, it can be extremely harmful.  Although DePuy is suggesting patients to have a blood test performed to see the amount of cobalt present in affected patients, there are three ways to test for cobalt.  The three tests include whole blood tests, blood serum tests, and urine tests.

 

Lap Corp is one of the laboratories reporting the blood tests for DePuy.  From what we have seen in our cases, the test results returned to patients by Lab Corp. in regards to the reference levels of toxicology, do not quantify the numerical read out for what a Toxic level is.

 

Furthermore, Lab Corp. has contracted with MedTox Laboratories Inc. to perform the blood analysis and results that is reported to DePuy ASR patients. It is believed that the Lab Corp. method of reporting the value of Cobalt may be misleading or at the very least may not provide all the necessary information to fully be apprise patients of the potential dangers from them.

Below is an example of a report of Lab Corp. on a tested patient that according to studies demonstrate that this patient’s level of Cobalt is toxic. How will the orthopedic physician read this report?  Though the report gives a reference value to the chromium value to be “high” in bold and identified, there is no similar info reported to the physician on Cobalt

 

What does this mean?  If the Doctor does not independently research studies regarding toxic values of Cobalt, patients will likely not be informed if the level of cobalt present in their blood is actually toxic!  Doctors can easily read this lab report and see “TOXIC: Not established” and assume the patients have nothing to worry about.  This could be extremely misleading to patients and doctors alike and therefore it should be more thoroughly investigated and examined.

 

If you have any questions regarding this post or your own cobalt and chromium test results, you may want to contact our attorneys at CSS Firm.  Although we are not doctors, our experienced team of injury lawyers will work closely with you and see that your medical and legal needs are properly considered and evaluated.

 

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4 Responses to “Can blood tests of the ASR DePuy Hip Implant recall conducted by Lab Corp mislead orthopedic physicians that read the results regarding Cobalt levels?”

  1. Sharon Bush Says:

    December 27th, 2010 at 3:48 am

    I am a California resident- hip replacement in May, 2009. I had an excellent recovery. In mid August while walking upstairs I had the sensation that the hip was giving out. Went to Kaiser emergency room. They took x rays, surgeon said all was intact. Friend called mid November stating she had seen ads on tv about DePuy recall. I started research, found out the Pinnacle version of DePuy was very much like the ASR with the metal to metal components. Asked surgeon to do the blood work. Initially he refused. Took research to him. Then he denied that the femoral head was metal to metal, saying it was metal to polyethelene. Ordered a chromium test. Won’t do more. I want all the blood tests including titanium. Am an attorney myself but need tests to prove I have a case. I don’t like what is going on. Please comment.

  2. Chris preston Says:

    April 30th, 2011 at 2:14 am

    Had hip surgury in 2008 in Sydney Australia then in 2010 had pains in groin, went to doctor had blood tests, Cobolt 116 Chromium 38 had hip replacment revision within 7 days of test results, now worried about recovery from cobolt it has been 6 weeks since revision.

  3. Ron Mountjoy Says:

    May 4th, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    My wife had her hip replaced in 2009 with the DePuy and have not had a straight answer from the surgeon that performed the hip replacement! Our personal doctor has ordered blood work every three months to keep an eye on cobalt and chromium levels. But the other problem is she experiences a clunking feeling in which two orthopaedic doctors say this is normal. Looking at it from a mechanical aspect things that “clunk” are not good. One of my first questions to her surgeon was about the cobalt and chromium and was assured that there was no problem with the Depuy hip. Is there any other concerns we need to know about.

  4. Pat Burroughs Says:

    May 22nd, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Can you go to a different doctor and ask for testing? I’ve heard of patients who had to do that to get any help. My own OS so far has done well by me, but he wants to wait till my cobalt is 18 or 20 to take out the joint. It’s slowly climbing and at the rate it has been going will reach that level within six months. I’m hoping he’ll agree to go ahead and remove the hip, which appears to be stable, sooner than that, as I’m having a lot of symptoms of cobalt poisoning including vision problems, hearing problems, and cognitive problems, along with a lot of pain. I don’t want to have surgery again, but hate the thought of the poison in my blood. By all means, don’t wait too long to go elsewhere for help, as cobalt poisoning can cause irreversible damage. Good luck on finding help soon.

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