Allergies to implants are the worst possible outcomes for doctors and patients alike. Imagine what Paula Spurlock must have been going through. Shortly after having a hip replaced in 2011, the trouble started. "I had horrible itching, really bad migraines and intense pain throughout my body," she said. "I couldn't take it. Every single thing in me itched."
After many months and several trips to specialists, Spurlock was told it could be anything from food allergies to her medication. But no matter what she changed, the symptoms persisted and Spurlock resigned herself to a life of misery. "I just kind of thought that's what life was going to be like," she said.
Then, she got a phone call. "I had a PET scan for a lung problem and they said, 'Paula, what's going on with your right hip?' I told them I had it replaced and they said, 'Well, it lights up on your PET scan.'"
More than a year after it was implanted, tests showed Paula was highly allergic to the metal in her new hip and to the surgical cement often used to hold joints in place. "That's the one thing that never occurred to any of us," she said. "No wonder I was miserable."
It's a problem that is sure to get worse in the coming years. By 2030, the demand for hip and knee replacements in the U.S. will skyrocket. More than 11,000 people a day are expected to have implant surgeries by then, an increase of 174 percent for hip replacements and nearly 700 percent for knees.