Make sure you’re not allergic before getting a metal implant

Galway Daily news Make sure you're not allergic before getting a metal implant

Allergies, they make a very big difference to our quality of life, and let’s face it no one wants to have allergies, but would you like to know whether you are allergic to the Knee joint or Hip Joint that you are having replaced? 

Have you not suffered enough without adding an allergy to the metal in your new knee or hip?

When you think about allergies, it usually calls to mind a food that you shouldn’t eat, pollen reactions like hay fever, or insect bites. But with the increasing prevalence of medical implants, metal allergy testing can be crucial before you get a new joint or other medical device inside of your body.

The growth of this field of medicine, along with a greater awareness and consideration of the breadth of allergic reactions the human body can have, has made it important to have a dedicated service for detecting metal allergies.

The Metal Allergy Screening service is the product of a collaboration between The Allergy Clinic, which has branches in Galway, Cork, Dublin, and Waterford, and Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Paul Nicholson, and is based at the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin.

Though far from a medical crisis, there have been a growing number of people who have experienced implant failure due to having an allergic reaction to the metals they are made of.

Medical reactions

Some of the symptoms of metal allergy are similar to other allergic reactions, such as skin rashes, itching, and blisters around the site of the implanted metal.

But more severe reactions can include swelling and severe pain in the joint. Ultimately the perception may be that the hip replacement didn’t work, when in actual fact the surgery itself was a success but you the patient rejected the implant because your body could not tolerate the metal.

Along with the distress of dealing with the rejecting of the implant itself, this is then followed by even more surgery to remove the offending implant, and replace it once again, this time with one that won’t be rejected. 

But how were you to know?

Getting tested for an allergy before surgery side steps those issues by allowing a medical team to assess whether a patient is likely to have a reaction to the metal in the intended implant. 

If so, it can simply be replaced with an implant of a different material, such as swapping out a cobalt implant for a titanium one. This will save even more time and distress from additional surgery and implants to replace the failed one.

“People should not continue to suffer with undiagnosed allergies when a medical practitioner can help them,” said Joyce Clegg, Managing Director of the Allergy Clinic.

Metal allergy testing

The actual testing for a metal allergy is carried out using the Patch Test, a five-day process where patients have patches of potential allergens applied to their back, and these are left in place for several days to see if there has been an allergic reaction. 

The BMAS service regularly screens for allergies to the most common metals used in implants such as Cobalt, Chromium, Titanium and Nickel, as well as other compounds used such as Methacrylate-based cements.

The service covers a wide range of implants including orthopaedic metals and plastics, dental materials, and cardiac implants.

Since the test is to determine if your body has an allergic reaction to these metals, there may be some side effects experienced by patients as a result. But these are nothing like the reaction experienced from implanted metals, and simply consist of a possible light headache, itching on your back, or a sick stomach.

The Allergy Clinic are opening this Metal Allergy Screening service to adults and children that are having surgery where metals are being used in an attempt to reduce second surgery due to undiagnosed metal allergies. 

Additionally, those who have had a joint replacement or other implant, and are experiencing a reaction after the surgery, are encouraged to get tested to rule out metal allergy. 

Metal allergy testing is a completely new service in the pre-surgery assessment for orthopedic, dental, spinal and cardiac surgery.

“Knowledge is power, know your body, help yourself in your recovery, know what your body can and cannot tolerate” said Nurse Sandra Walsh.

“People should not continue to suffer with undiagnosed allergies when a medical practitioner can help them,” Joyce concludes.

This is a self-referral service and if you would like more information, please contact The Allergy Clinic at 01 2888375 or