Unfortunately, removal of these implants involves a major surgical procedure and there is not a reliable laboratory test to predict brain toxicity. However, utilizing PET brain scans brain diseases can be detected years before they become clinically evident. These scans provide a straightforward and repeatable test to detect and measure early injury to critical areas of the brain and can be used to monitor treatment.
Stephen Tower, MD and Robert Bridges, MD have researched cobalt toxicity and what parts of the brain it affects. Their findings will be presented at this year's international meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging in Denver.
In this video clip StephenTower, MD, discusses cobalt poisoning found with hip-implants due to corrosion and wear. This complication has been observed even in implants with a plastic socket. Patients have been found to be at risk for encephalopathy and have changes on PET scans. The diagnosis of this complication along with its impact on the patient and society are discussed.
With millions of Americans having implanted cobalt alloy artificial joints, early detection of brain injury from silently wearing down or corroding artificial joints may prevent lasting brain damage.
As aptly summarized by Robert Bridges, MD, "Cobalt may be the 'new mercury' that needs to be dealt with. With better and safer ceramics, metal alloys and plastics, cobalt's use in artificial joints needs to be reconsidered."
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