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Using NAC to Remove Chrome/Cobalt from Blood

I have 2 Resurfaced Hips made of Chrome/Cobalt. The first in 2006 and the second in 2010. I first posted about this situation after watching the documentary film “The Bleeding Edge” on Netflix. Since then my concern has only heightened due to the potential of chrome/cobalt poisoning in my blood and tissue from metal fatigue realized from these metal hips. I have friends who have experienced the horrible effects from this heavy metal poisoning so I have monitored my own situation closely in recent years. In this post I wanted to share how the use of the supplement N-Acetyl-Cysteine, NAC, has actually decreased the levels of Chrome/Cobalt in my body.

My History: My family has shown a propensity toward the development of an arthritis that creates some bone deposits in our hips. For me this has been accelerated by a life of sports activity, most notably basketball, that allowed this arthritic condition to wear away the natural lining of my hip joint. Once I understood this back in 2006 when I was 52 years old and in constant pain I had to figure out a solution. I had heard that hip replacements were good for 15-20 years which did not seem to match well with my age. I remember hearing about hip resurfacing in a 60 Minutes type segment on Americans traveling to India for this surgery. So I started investigating this alternative procedure. The allure for me was the fact that you could remain active and if needed down the road I could still get a hip replacement. Fortunate for me there was an orthopedic surgeon in Salem, Oregon, who was allowed to perform this surgery probably due to the FDA’s 510(k) pathway for approving medical devices. My first hip was his 439th hip resurfacing. I do believe that my second hip done in 2010 was from the same design and stock of the Cobalt-chrome implant.

My first heavy metals blood/urine test was done in 2016 which showed that my levels were higher then normal but still within a safe range. My tests in 2021 showed that these levels had not come down but still no serious worries except that it seemed to me that my muscles around my hips were not recovering as quickly from heavy backpacking exertion as they used to. In 2021 my doctor asked if I wanted to explore blood chelation therapy to remove heavy metals from my blood. That seemed a bit excessive, but I appreciated the advice and so I set out to investigate other options to achieve this chelation. Of course the Internet provided a wealth of information that once deciphered led me to try taking the natural health supplement N-Acetyl-Cysteine which provided the chelation of heavy metals in my blood to be disposed of via urination.

During my recent physical exam in June of 2022 by doctor was very pleased with the progress that had been made with my Chrome/Cobalt numbers. Chrome is really the major concern for me and my test results went from 2.4 mcg/L in 3/21 to 1.9 mcg/L in 6/22. I have to admit that I was fairly nervous about getting these test results back because I felt like I had really pushed my aging body over that period of time. After completing the Lost Coast Trail in 2/22 I felt like my recovery took longer so I focused my discipline to take the recommended dosage 1200 mg of NAC over 24 hours. It appears that it contributed to the lowering of chrome/cobalt levels in my body. This awakening along with a major life change has caused me to backoff on extensive backpacking treks so I have reduced my NAC daily dosage to 600 mg per day. The only real side effect with taking NAC for me is that it bothers your stomach a bit if you don’t take the pill with a meal.

This article in Arthroplasty Today, “N-Acetyl-Cysteine Reduces Blood Chromium and Cobalt Levels in Metal-on-Metal Hip Arthroplasty“, seemed to be somewhat straightforward in describing the advantages of NAC.

Nothing overly scientific presented in my post, but I thought it was important to at least reference my outcomes on the Internet. My resurfaced hips are still providing me with a positive lifestyle. The Adventure Continues.

Hip Perspectives on “The Bleeding Edge” Documentary

After watching the documentary film “The Bleeding Edge” on Netflix I thought I should weigh in as a patient who has had both of my hips resurfaced, meaning my hip joints are metal on metal ball and sockets.

My Right Hip done in 2006

My 2006 Right Hip

The film is a very well done documentary that examines the $400bn medical device industry that reviews five products that have exhibited significant failures including the broad review of cobalt based hip implants. This is an important documentary that does expose the weakness of our regulation of the medical implant industry and sounds a needed alarm to those patients who may now be at risk.

I am focusing on hip resurfacing which was lumped into the broad exposure of any metal joints made from Cobalt. The greatest concern comes from these devices that actually operate with a metal on metal joint, and hips are probably the most common. My hips are made of a Cobalt-chrome alloy that is used because it creates one of the hardest and strongest metals known to man. These features are critical for a successful and enduring joint replacement. The premise for using a metal on metal hip as in my case is that the body naturally encapsulates and provides lubrication for the joint movement. The Co-Cr alloys show high resistance to corrosion due to the spontaneous formation of a protective passive film composed of mostly Cr2O3. The minor amounts of cobalt and other metal oxides on the surface appear to be contained by the body’s encapsulation. The documentary does not spell this out in sufficient detail, instead it broadly classifies any device made from cobalt as dangerous.

My History: My family has shown a propensity toward the development of an arthritis that creates some bone deposits in our hips. For me this has been accelerated by a life of sports activity, most notably basketball, that allowed this arthritic condition to wear away the natural lining of my hip joint. Once I understood this back in 2006 when I was 52 years old and in constant pain I had to figure out a solution. I had heard that hip replacements were good for 15-20 years which did not seem to match well with my age. I remember hearing about hip resurfacing in a 60 Minutes type segment on Americans traveling to India for this surgery. So I started investigating this alternative procedure. The allure for me was the fact that you could remain active and if needed down the road I could still get a hip replacement. Fortunate for me there was an orthopedic surgeon in Salem, Oregon, who was allowed to perform this surgery probably due to the FDA’s 510(k) pathway for approving medical devices as mentioned in the documentary. My first hip was his 439th hip resurfacing. I do believe that my second hip done in 2010 was from the same design and stock of the Cobalt-chrome implant.

I guess the point of my post is to let it be known that hip resurfacing can be very positive. So why have I not experienced any cobalt poisoning related medical issues? Obviously the surgery can be positive, however, it is true that many have experienced serious problems. Depuy, owned by Johnson & Johnson, was referenced in the documentary, however, there has been recall activity on cobalt based joints from Stryker and Smith Nephew. My theory for my success is based on the fact that the hips that were used for me were created in the early pre FDA approval period. I have asked who made my hips and I never got an real answer. They appear to be similar to the Smith Nephew BHR and the Wright Conserve systems. Maybe those early test hip parts were done with more attention given to the metallurgy involved. Possibly my success has to due with my lifestyle. I have learned that I cannot participate in physical activity that is based on radical lateral movement such as basketball or handball. What I can do is walk or backpack which I have done to the tune of about 2000 miles since my second hip surgery. So overall I am extremely thankful for this medical hip resurfacing technology.

I do hope that the FDA is able to improve the overall approval process for medical device technologies and it is good that documentaries are made to help bring attention to these needs. But we must also caution against blanket assumptions made to help sensationalize a documentary, such as all devices made with cobalt are bad for you.

 

 

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