Pregnant women with metal-on-metal hip replacements pass metal ions to the fetus, according to researchers from Rush University Medical Center. Metal-on-metal implants, as the name suggests, have the ball of the joint and the socket made of metal. As metal parts rub against each other, wear, and corrode -- metal ions are released.
Maternal and umbilical cord blood were tested for titanium, nickel, cobalt, and chromium in a group of mothers with metal-on-metal implants and their offspring. Researchers then compared the results to a control group (mothers without metal-on-metal implants). Mothers with metal-on-metal implants had much higher levels of chromium and cobalt than mothers in the control group. In the metal-on-metal group, cobalt and chromium levels in umbilical cord blood was lower than in the mother's blood sample. This indicates the placenta provided some barrier to the passage of metal ions from mother to fetus -- but an incomplete barrier. Some ions got through.
Researchers emphasize that it is not known if the metal ions in the mother's bloodstream or those passed to the fetus pose any health risk. But this information should be considered by women of child-bearing age when deciding which type of hip replacement would be the optimal choice.
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