New Blood Test Finds Al­ler­gies Be­fore Im­plant

Wellness Update - - Contents -

Shortly af­ter hav­ing a hip re­placed in 2011, Paula Spurlock started hav­ing trou­ble. “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.” 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. 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. “It’s huge,” said Karin Pacheco, MD an al­ler­gist at Na­tional Jewish Health in Den­ver. “We are an ag­ing so­ci­ety, and the num­ber of peo­ple who need new joints is go­ing to in­crease and, for some of th­ese peo­ple, they won’t know that they’re al­ler­gic un­til af­ter the im­plant is put in.” “The best way to tell if some­one is al­ler­gic is to do a skin patch test that takes about a week,” she said. “Not every­body has that kind of time be­fore their surgery.” Pacheco and her team at Na­tional Jewish Health have come up with an al­ter­na­tive, de­vel­op­ing the first blood test that can de­tect al­ler­gies to nickel. Nickel is not only one of the most com­mon met­als used in joint im­plants, but it’s also the most com­mon con­tact al­ler­gen in the U.S. “We think about 15 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is sen­si­tized to nickel,” she said. Pacheco says there are many ad­van­tages to the con­cept of us­ing a blood test to check for al­ler­gies be­fore surgery. “First of all it’s much eas­ier,” she said. “and if an al­lergy is de­tected, pa­tients could avoid the mis­ery of an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion by choos­ing a dif­fer­ent im­plant, and the health care sys­tem could save mil­lions of dol­lars in re­vi­sion pro­ce­dures.” “If we find a pa­tient is al­ler­gic af­ter the fact, un­for­tu­nately, the only op­tion right now is to take the joint out and re­place it with some­thing to which they’re not al­ler­gic,” said Pacheco. “It would be nice to get it right the first time.”

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