Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine



Is there any connection between leukemia and metal implants used for joint replacement? I know it sounds like a long shot but my father was just diagnosed with leukemia. His blood work has shown elevated levels of chromium in the past. The doctor always thought this was from his metal hip joint replacement but didn't think it was a problem. Could there be a link?


Implants made of metal have a thin coating around them to prevent flecks of metal from going into the body and blood stream. This coating can breakdown, releasing potentially toxic chemicals into the body.

Several studies have been done that show an increased number of patients with metal hip implants developing cancer. Leukemia and lymphoma are the two types of cancer seen in patients with cobalt-alloy total joint replacements. The same has been reported for metal-on-metal hip replacement.

There's no proof yet that the metals are the problem. More study is needed before we know for sure.

Young-Jo Kim, MD, PhD, et al. Serum Levels of Nickel and Chromium after Instrumented Posterior Spinal Arthrodesis. In Spine. April 15, 2005. Vol. 30. No. 8. Pp. 923-926.

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