FRIDAY, March 17, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Many patients worry that receiving a metal implant might set off their metal allergy, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
"Cases in which patients are inquiring about a metal allergy as it relates to their metal implants -- including joint replacements, rods, pins, screws, plates, certain neurologic and cardiac devices such as pacemakers, and dental devices -- are becoming more prevalent as medical implants become more common,â€ said Dr. Golara Honari, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at Stanford School of Medicine.
About 10% of Americans will receive a medical implant during their lifetime. Millions of people in the United States report having a metal allergy.
Metal, especially nickel, is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, Honari said. It develops when skin is exposed to an allergen, often leading to a rash and itching. Other symptoms can include dryness, hives, blisters or pain.
Honari noted that suspected metal implant allergies can be difficult to diagnose because everyoneâ€™s immune system reacts to allergens differently.
Close collaboration between a dermatologist and the surgeon or physician who placed the implant is essential, she said.
Patients who need an implant and have a documented history of a metal allergy should notify their dermatologist and physician or surgeon about any allergies prior to the procedure.
Alternatives to metal implants are available.
â€œFor example, if itâ€™s an orthopedic implant, there are ceramic options, which wonâ€™t affect those who have a metal allergy," Honari said in an academy news release. "There must be a very close relationship between the surgeon and dermatologist as they work together to consider if a patient needs a different type of implant or if they should be tested for metal allergies prior to surgery," she said.
Patients who think they might be having a painful or problematic skin reaction triggered by a metal implant should take note of their symptoms and talk to their dermatologist or surgeon about them.
â€œA thorough investigation is necessary to rule out more common causes of inflammation such as infection," Honari said. â€œHowever, if an allergic reaction is suspected, the first line of treatment may be topical and/or oral medications, like anti-inflammatories, which can relieve pain, reduce inflammation and bring down a high temperature.â€
When it is put into the body, a metal implant often releases some metal for a period of time, she pointed out. This can cause irritation in patients with metal allergies, but this may be temporary.
â€œIn many cases, this release slows down, and patients are able to keep the implant,â€ Honari said.
Removal of the implant may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Surgeon, dermatologist and patient will evaluate whether it should be replaced with a device made from another material.
â€œIf you have an allergy to metal and will be getting an implant, or if you suspect your medical implant is causing an allergic reaction, consult your surgeon and a board-certified dermatologist for an evaluation,â€ Honari said. â€œA dermatologist can work with you and your surgeon to determine the best course of action based on your symptoms.â€
The U.S. Geological Survey has more on metals and minerals in implants.
SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology, news release, March 17, 2023