ALTR from Hip Replacement: Symptoms and Treatment

ALTR from hip replacement

Up until recently, metal-on-metal hips were one of the most common forms of hip implants.  Unfortunately, these all-metal hips have been linked to a number of health problems.  ALTR, or adverse local tissue reaction, is one of the most common complications associated with metal-on-metal replacement hips.  The condition can require extensive treatment, including total hip revision, or the surgical replacement of the all-metal hip for a different model.  Below, you’ll find information on the symptoms, causes, and treatment options involved with ALTR.

How do Faulty Hip Replacements Cause ALTR?

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, continued friction between the metal components of metal-on-metal replacement hips can release metallic particles, including chromium and cobalt, into the body.  Elevated blood levels of these metals can cause localized and systemic issues.  As a result, all-metal hip replacements made by Johnson & Johnson, DePuy, and Stryker have been recalled due to patient complaints of ATLR.  Pain, tissue degeneration, and neurologic symptoms associated with chromium toxicity are also connected to these recalls.

What Are the Symptoms of ALTR?

Metal ions released into the bloodstream can cause adverse reactions for body tissue and bone alike.    The condition is harmful and degenerative, causing bone loss and fractures in the surrounding healthy bone.  Infection, fluid accumulation, and tumor-like masses can develop in the body’s soft tissue as well.   In many cases, the patient can end up in much worse condition and in much more pain than before the hip replacement surgery ever took place.

Am I at Risk for ALTR?

The FDA reports that there are certain factors that can put people at an increased risk for ALTR.  These include:

  • Patients with a bilateral hip replacements, or one on each hip
  • Hip replacement hardware with small femoral heads (less than 44 mm)
  • Female patients
  • Patients taking corticosteroid drugs, common in inflammatory conditions
  • Patients with kidney problems
  • Patients with immune problems
  • Patients who are very overweight
  • Patients who are very active

Your health professional should have discussed these risk factors with you prior to surgery.  However, in most cases, the benefits of surgery will outweigh the risks.

Diagnosis of ALTR from Hip Replacement

Although many hip replacements will function properly and safely, it’s important to have your replacement hip checked out by a doctor every 1 to 2 years.  In addition, if you’re at increased risk for ALTR or have experienced hip pain, certain tests should be performed to determine the next course of action. These tests include:

  • Blood test for increased chromium levels or infection
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Evaluation of fluid from affected area of hip

Treatment Options

Treatment of ALTR from hip replacement depends on the level and severity of damaged tissue.  Removal of irregular growths or fluid around the hip joint may be necessary. If it’s found that ALTR is related to a faulty hip replacement, revision or replacement of the hip will probably be necessary. Health care professionals now recommend that patients choose a hip replacement model that features ceramic and titanium components, rather than a metal-on-metal option.  With these types of replacement hips, less metal particles are released into the blood and surrounding tissue, resulting in reduced instances of ALTR from hip replacement surgery.

Consult a legal professional if you develop problems as a result of metal-on-metal hip replacement surgery, or if your particular hip replacement model has been recalled.  The manufacturer may be liable for any expenses resulting from your injuries.