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Blood metal ions have been widely used to investigate metal-on-metal hip replacements, but their ability to discriminate between well-functioning and failed hips is not known. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has suggested a cut-off level of 7 parts per billion (ppb). We performed a pair-matched, case-control study to investigate the sensitivity and specificity of blood metal ion levels for diagnosing failure in 176 patients with a unilateral metal-on-metal hip replacement. We recruited 88 cases with a pre-revision, unexplained failed hip and an equal number of matching controls with a well-functioning hip. We investigated the 7 ppb cut-off level for the maximum of cobalt or chromium and determined optimal mathematical cut-off levels from receiver-operating characteristic curves. The 7 ppb cut-off level for the maximum of cobalt or chromium had a specificity of 89% and sensitivity 52% for detecting a pre-operative unexplained failed metal on metal hip replacement. The optimal cut-off level for the maximum of cobalt or chromium was 4.97 ppb and had sensitivity 63% and specificity 86%. Blood metal ions had good discriminant ability to separate failed from well-functioning hip replacements. The MHRA cut-off level of 7 ppb provides a specific test but has poor sensitivity. © 2011 British Editorial Society of Bone and Joint Surgery.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of bone and joint surgery - series b

Publication Date



93 B


1308 - 1313