Approximately 60,000 cemented femoral stems are implanted in the UK each year with the majority being manufactured from stainless steel containing 10–15% nickel. Nickel hypersensitivity has been reported in up to 13% of the general population and there is a concern that nickel hypersensitivity might adversely affect the outcome of total hip replacement (THR). We reviewed the current literature on the potential link between nickel hypersensitivity and THR complications, and the usefulness of patch testing.
We conducted a literature search in PubMed, MEDLINE and EMBASE databases. The level of evidence and the quality of the selected studies were assessed using the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine Criteria and the Methodological Index for Non-Randomised Studies tool, respectively.
Twenty-six studies met the inclusion criteria, reporting on 1852 patients who underwent primary or revision THR. All studies detailed skin patch testing and recorded prevalence of nickel hypersensitivity from 1.5% to 33.3%. Five studies reported a rise in Nickel hypersensitivity following THR, while four reported a decreased prevalence post-operatively. Eight studies concluded that metal hypersensitivity could have developed following THR, while seven studies did not support a link between metal hypersensitivity and THR complications. Four of the studies recommended routine patch testing pre-operatively, but three others concluded that routine patch testing was not indicated.
We have not identified a link between nickel hypersensitivity and THR complications, and the role of patch testing remains unclear. Further large-scale studies would be required to investigate this relationship and to clarify the role of patch testing in facilitating implant selection.
Cite this article: EFORT Open Rev 2021;6:825-838. DOI: 10.1302/2058-5241.6.210051