Metal-on-metal total disc replacement is a recent alternative treatment for degenerative disc disease. Wear and corrosion of these implants can lead to local and systemic transport of metal debris. This prospective longitudinal study examined the serum chromium and cobalt levels in 24 patients with cobalt-chromium alloy metal-on-metal lumbar disc replacements.

Serum was assayed for chromium (Cr) and cobalt (Co) using high-resolution inductively-coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. Detection limits were 0.015 ng/mL for Cr and 0.04 ng/mL for Co.

Median serum Co levels at pre-op, 3, 6, 12, 24, and 36-months post-op were 0.10, 1.03, 0.96, 0.98, 0.67, and 0.52 ng/mL, respectively. Median serum Cr levels were 0.06, 0.49, 0.65, 0.43, 0.52, and 0.50 ng/mL, respectively.

In general, these results indicated that serum Co and Cr levels are elevated at all postoperative time points and are of the same order of magnitude as those observed in well-functioning metal-on-metal surface replacements of the hip and in metal-on-metal total hip replacements at similar postoperative time points.