Metal or Plastic Orthopedic Replacements ?
Having a joint replaced will involve the use of a prosthetic, either for the entire joint itself or for just certain affected pieces. The ability of surgeons to replace a hip or knee joint with a prosthetic has provided pain relief and mobility for literally millions of patients that might otherwise be virtually paralyzed because of diseased or injured joints.
Metal replacements have been in use for many years; they are durable and strong and can be shaped and molded to fit any area of the body. Plastic replacements are relatively newer but some believe they are safer and lighter and provide for better mobility. When you need to have a joint replacement surgery, you may be given an option as to metal or plastic orthopedic parts, and if you need to make this decision, you need to know the pros and cons of both choices.
Metal has been used by orthopedic surgeons for years because it is very durable and very strong. It holds up through the rigors of everyday use and can withstand pressure from accidents and injuries. Metals are also more readily fused onto existing bone.
Some studies in the past few years have questioned metal’s use, linking it to cancer risks and poisoning in the body. Those studies were inconclusive and many other studies have stated that they are very safe and there is no added risk of cancer from choosing a metal replacement joint. Some studies have also found a higher failure rate for metal implants, meaning the fusion does not last or the metal pieces will break down and need to be replaced over time. The five-year failure rate of metal implants was 6.2 which was much higher than that of plastic and other materials.
Plastic Orthopedic Replacements
Plastic is much lighter than metal and may be recommended for elderly patients and those who have decreased strength and mobility. Because it’s lighter it may not be as strong as metal and may not stand up as well to impact and other risk factors. Those who play sports or who put pressure on the joints may want to consider using the sturdy metal option.
Many studies show that plastic has a lower failure rate so it may be a good choice to consider for long-term advantages. It may also be less costly because the material itself is less costly than metal implants.
Making a Decision
Both types of materials yield positive results for patients, and doctors have had success with both materials for years. Some might assume that metal joints would scrape and be painful, but there are materials that are used in between the parts to eliminate rubbing. No matter the type you choose, you will typically have great success with your replacement joint and be able to walk and be mobile for years. Talk to your doctor about his or her recommendation so you can make an informed decision.