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ObjectivesThis study aimed to investigate the prevalence of self-reported neurotoxicity and cognitive defects in hip replacement patients with markedly raised blood cobalt.MethodsCase group comprised 53 patients with metal-on-metal (MoM) implants and a history of blood Co ≥20 μg/L for a median of 3 years (interquartile range, 2-5 years). The control group comprised 53 patients with ceramic-on-ceramic prostheses and blood Co <1 μg/L. Median age was 67 years (interquartile range, 60-74 years). The participants completed the Neurotoxic Symptom Checklist-60, Diabetic Neuropathy Score, Douleur Neuropathique-10, and Systemic Symptom Checklist, and underwent the Mini-Mental State Examination.ResultsThe MoM and ceramic-on-ceramic groups were compared, the results were as follows: Neurotoxic Symptom Checklist-60 (median): cognitive defects (2.0 versus 1.9; P = 0.002), chest complaints (1.3 versus 1.3; P = 0.042), balance disturbances (1.3 versus 1.0; P < 0.001), sleep disturbances (2.7 versus 2.0; P = 0.004), mood disorders (2.0 versus 1.5; P = 0.001), sensorimotor disorders (1.6 versus 1.2; P < 0.001), physical complaints (2.0 versus 1.4; P = 0.009), fatigue (2.0 versus 1.6; P = 0.001), and total score (108 versus 90; P < 0.001); abnormal Diabetic Neuropathy Score/Douleur Neuropathique-10 (%): 60.3/13.2 versus 24.5/1.9 (P < 0.001/P = 0.028). Systemic Symptom Checklist (in percent): feeling cold (37.7 versus 17; P = 0.01), weight gain (18.9 versus 1.9; P = 0.008), metallic taste (26.4 versus 3.8; P = 0.002), worsening eyesight (37.7 versus 15.1; P = 0.008) and hearing (24.5 versus 7.5; 0.032), ankle swelling (32.1 versus 7.5; P = 0.002), shortness of breath on exertion (9.4 versus 5.7; P = 0.015), and generalized rash (28.3 versus 7.5; P = 0.01); and Mini-Mental State Examination (median): 29 versus 30 (P = 0.017). Patients in the MoM group were aware of their high cobalt levels and displayed a higher tendency to overreport symptoms (P < 0.001), which could have contributed to the higher scores.ConclusionsFrequency of reporting a number of symptoms was markedly higher in MoM patients, but clinically significant neurotoxicity was not observed (possibly due to the short exposure to elevated cobalt). Patients with repeated blood Co ≥20 μg/L measurements should be questioned about possible systemic health complaints at follow-up.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of patient safety

Publication Date





e10 - e17


From the Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, University College London.