Do cobalt and chromium levels predict osteolysis in metal-on-metal total hip arthroplasty?

Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery

, Volume 136, Issue 12, pp 1657–1662

Do cobalt and chromium levels predict osteolysis in metal-on-metal total hip arthroplasty?

  • Lisa Renner, Tom Schmidt-Braekling, Martin Faschingbauer, Friedrich Boettner


Serum metal ions are part of the regular follow-up routine of patients with metal-on-metal total hip arthroplasties (MoM-THA). Increased cobalt levels have been suggested to indicate implant failure and corrosion.


(1) Is there a correlation between the size of the osteolysis measured on a CT scan and metal ion levels? (2) Can metal ion levels predict the presence of osteolysis in MoM-THA? (3) Are cobalt and chromium serum levels or the cobalt-chromium-ratio diagnostic for osteolysis?

Materials and methods

CT scans of patients (n = 75) with a unilateral MoM-THA (Birmingham Hip System, Smith & Nephew, TN, USA) implanted by a single surgeon were reviewed to determine the presence of osteolysis. Statistical analysis was performed to detect its association with metal ion levels at the time of the imaging exam.


The incidence of osteolysis was the same in men and women (35.6 vs 35.7 %). The cobalt-chromium-ratio correlates with the size of the osteolysis on the CT scan and the femoral component size in the overall study population (p = 0.050, p = 0.001) and in men (p = 0.002,p = 0.001) but not in women (p = 0.312, p = 0.344). The AUC for the cobalt-chromium-ratio to detect osteolysis was 0.613 (p = 0.112) for the overall population, 0.710 for men (p = 0.021) and 0.453 (p = 0.684) for women. The data suggest that a cut off level of 1.71 for the cobalt-chromium-ratio has a sensitivity of 62.5 % and specificity of 72.4 % to identify male patients with osteolysis.


The disproportional increase of cobalt over chromium, especially in male patients with large component sizes can not be explained by wear alone and suggests that other processes (corrosion) might contribute to metal ion levels and might be more pronounced in patients with larger component sizes.


Metal ionsTotal hip arthroplastyOsteolysisMetal-on-metalCT scan

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