Leonard R. Walter MBBS(Syd), FRACS, FAOrthA, Ed Marel MBBS(Syd), FRCS Ed (Orth), FRACS, FAOrthAa, Richard Harbury MBBS(Syd), FRACS, FAOrthAa and Jenny Wearne RNaPeninsula Orthopaedics Research Institute, DEE WHY NSW 2099, Australia
Received 28 November 2006;
accepted 7 July 2007
The most appropriate blood fraction for the measurement of metal ions in patients with metal-on-metal implants is controversial. We compared chromium (Cr) and cobalt (Co) ion levels in 29 patients after unilateral hip resurfacing with a size 54-mm femoral Birmingham Hip Resurfacing Prosthesis (Smith and Nephew, London, UK). All had well-functioning arthroplasties between 5 and 59 months after implantation. Ion levels were measured in serum, plasma, red cells, and whole blood in each patient. Our results indicate that only very minor amounts of Cr and Co are associated with red blood cells, with most being associated with serum/plasma. Previous studies using corrosion to produce the ion load have showed a predominance of Cr in the red blood cells. They have also shown that the cellular uptake of Cr is an indicator of its valence. This difference in distribution with our results is indirect evidence that the Cr released from wear of this implant is probably in the more benign trivalent form. It also suggests that most of the metal loss from a normally wearing bearing may be from wear rather than corrosion. If blood is to be used to assess rates of wear and systemic ion levels, then serum gives a better reflection of the true levels than red blood cells.