Study: Debris from Titanium Medical Devices may Trigger Painful Joint Inflammation

Study: Debris from Titanium Medical Devices may Trigger Painful Joint InflammationA recent study on mice published in the Journal of Immunology suggests that patients who receive artificial joints with components made with titanium could eventually suffer from painful inflammation. In time, the medical device could even destroy surrounding bone and loosen the new joint.

Earlier studies may have erroneously blamed bacteria for the inflammation that occurred after the joint replacement procedure, but the most recent research, conducted by experts at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, suggests tiny titanium particles that splinter off the artificial joint mechanism could be the actual cause of painful inflammation. The particles were found to exist after normal wear and tear of the device.

The product triggers a form of inflammation, called Th2, commonly linked with allergic reactions and parasitic worm infections, the researchers stated. When the titanium particles were sensed by the body and were only recognized as invading parasites or allergens, the body generated a form of immune cells known as "alternatively activated macrophages."

Titanium medical devices are often used in patients who undergo total joint replacement, which entails completely removing a joint ravaged by arthritis or other joint damage and replacing it with an artificial joint called a prosthesis, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

In addition to painful inflammation, other complications can arise from the procedure. Infection has been known to occur around the wound or prosthesis within days of the operation or even years later, which could require more surgery and the removal of the device.

The researchers concluded that increasing evidence is helping to paint a clearer picture of how alternatively activated macrophages can cause bone destruction in patients who receive titanium prostheses and in those with specific forms of arthritis.