Bristol Royal Infirmary, England.
The production of particulate wear debris is a recognised complication of joint arthroplasty, but interest has concentrated on local tissue reactions and a possible association with implant loosening. The fate of wear products in the body remains unknown, although some of the metals used in the construction of orthopaedic implants are known to have toxic and oncogenic properties. We report histological and electron-microscopic evidence from two cases which shows that metallic debris can be identified in the lymphoreticular tissues of the body distant from the hip some years after joint replacement. The increase in the use of total arthroplasty in younger patients, the development of new alloys and the use of porous coatings must raise concern for the long-term effects of the accumulation of wear debris in the body.