Spinal Fusion, Steel Rod and Metal Allergy
Believe it or not this is my spine. I was 14 when this was taken and the proud new owner of a stainless steel rod fused to my scoliotic backbone. I have renewed interest in these X-rays because I'm considering the effects of metal inside the body. Does it corrode? Do bits end up in cells in your blood, floating around, or settling in your tissue?
The surgeon who performed this fusion retired from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City years ago. So I emailed his replacement, Dr. Boachie. I asked him what the harrington rod was made of. He wrote back: "Stainless steel (nickel, chromium, iron). No Titanium."
When I wear stainless steel earrings my ears get itchy, but it's tolerable. What do allergenic metals do inside a body?
There's a test called the MELISA test that I will probably do soon. Your doctor can order it. You give blood, send it to a registered MELISA lab with a list of metals you'd like tested, and you can find out which you react to. I will test for nickel, chromium and iron. Funny, because my most recent bloodwork showed me as high in iron and my doctor and I are trying to figure that one out.
Here's what the MELISA site says about nickel:
Nickel triggers more hypersensitive reactions than any other metal – up to 15% of the population suffers from some form of nickel allergy, mostly women. Nickel is exceptionally common: in cigarettes, jewelry, buttons and in coins (including the Euro). It may be found in dental restorations, prostheses (hip, knee, cochlear and cardiac implants), colour pigments, cosmetics, stainless steel cutlery and pots. The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning that patients who are having stents fitted should discuss metal allergy with their surgeon prior to having a stent net fitted. While nickel allergy may present as a rash or localised contact dermatitis it may also have systemic effects including chronic fatigue and muscle pain and widespread skin conditions.
Professor Vera Stejskal is the inventor of the MELISA test. She was formerly head of Immunotoxicology at Astra Pharmaceuticals (now known as AstraZeneca), where she helped to develop a multi-billion-dollar stomach ulcer drug. She left Astra in 1996 to work full-time on MELISA and now she's Associate Professor of Immunology at University of Stockholm. She gives lectures and is author of many metal allergy articles.
If you, dear reader, happen to have any experience with allergies to metal, or if you have a metal implant that you sometimes wonder about, let us know about it. The MELISA site has patients' stories that describe people losing symptoms after removal of their hardware. Since the rod has most likely grown into the bone this won't be an option for me but I'm confident there will be another solution.