Testing suggested before prosthesis installation
Although contact dermatitis is typically thought to affect individuals when their skin comes into contact with an allergen, some irritants can be found on devices that are implanted into the body, contributing to similar negative health effects.
Joint replacement is a fairly common occurrence among Americans. For example, arthritis can develop in the knees due to old age or following a serious injury, so knee replacements are fairly common, to the tune of 600,000 such operations per year.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, medical professionals must consider several factors when determining the materials used in artificial joints and implants. For example, replacement finger joints are commonly made from silicone to ensure maximum flexibility, while prosthetic knee joints generally are composed of metal or plastic because they must support the entire body.
Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic recently found that of patients with allergies to prosthetic devices, slightly more than half reacted negatively to nickel, while palladium, gold and cobalt allergies were observed slightly less often.
To assess the prevalence of allergies, researchers conducted patch testing on 21 patients before they received their replacement devices, and none of them suffered allergy symptoms once they consulted with the doctor and were given a device made out of hypoallergenic materials.
An additional 10 patients who already received devices and displayed sensitivities to certain metals were also studied, and all six individuals who opted to have their prosthetic devices removed experienced reduced symptoms.
"The findings of this study support a role for patch testing in patients with a clinical history of metal hypersensitivity before prosthetic device implantation," researchers said in the Archives of Dermatology, according to Medpage Today. "The decision of whether to remove an implanted device after positive patch test results should be made on a case-by-case basis, as decided by the surgeon and patient."
Before receiving a prosthetic, patients may consider asking their doctor to test for allergies to metals just to ensure no negative reactions occur.