ARMD from Hip Replacement: Symptoms and Treatment

Hip replacements are one of the most routine and common surgeries. Over the years, people continue to benefit from the pain relief and increased mobility artificial hips provide. However, with the rise of metal-on-metal hip models from companies like Johnson & Johnson, DePuy, and Stryker, unusual problems began to emerge.

For many patients, metal-on-metal replacement hips have turned out to be ticking time bombs. That’s because metallic debris released by friction between hips’ metal components can result in dangerous bodily reactions and hip failure. This phenomenon is known as ARMD, or adverse reaction to metal debris.

What Is ARMD?

ARMD is a generalized concept that describes the body’s response to chromium and cobalt particles released from metal-on-metal hip replacements. The body’s allergic reaction to these metals creates a situation similar to an infection, including pain, inflammation, and swelling.  The area around the hip becomes unstable, and may result in joint dislocation.  Continued auto-immune responses can result in ALVAL, or aseptic lymphocyte dominated vasculitis-associated lesions. ALVAL can cause destruction of muscle, bone and blood vessels.

Abnormal amounts of these metals in the blood also indicate that the hip replacement is wearing away at an advanced rate – even without any noticeable symptoms. Elevated blood levels of chromium and cobalt can also cause neurological problems, such as hearing loss, blurred vision, and dizziness.

What Are the Symptoms of ARMD from Hip Replacement?

Patients who experience ARMD report these common symptoms:

  • Pain in the groin, leg, or hip
  • Tightness and loss of movement
  • Swelling around the affected hip
  • A lump around the affected hip
  • Weakness when walking
  • Fatigue

Sometimes there are no obvious symptoms that a metal-on-metal hip is failing. As a result, doctors recommend that all patients with all-metal hips have routine check-ups every 1 to 2 years.

Testing and Assessment for ARMD

There are several tests to determine if a patient has ARMD.  Along with a trip to the doctor’s office, a visit to the radiologist and the laboratory will most likely be necessary. Medical professionals may use the following tests or assessments to diagnose ARMD from hip replacement:

  • Thorough medical assessment to rule out other disorders
  • Blood testing for metal levels and white blood cells
  • Testing of any fluid accumulated around the affected hip
  • Review of medical records to determine the manufacturer of the replacement hip
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound

Treatment Options

When ARMD is diagnosed, the metal-on-metal hip is usually removed and a new hip made with other materials, such as ceramic components, is implanted instead. The patient will again undergo hospitalization, physical therapy, and time off from work. The second hip replacement surgery can often be more difficult than the first hip replacement, but shouldn’t be delayed.

Success of corrective surgery is dependent on a prompt diagnosis and removal of the metal-on-metal hip. In conjunction with help from your medical team, consultation with a legal professional can help with the costly recovery process. A number of manufacturers of metal-on-metal artificial hips have been held liable for patient’s injuries related to ARMD from hip replacement surgery.