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Titanium Allergy

In February 1996, I underwent a surgical procedure know as a bi-lateral maxillary osteotomy. Basically my upper and lower jaws were surgically rearranged, and moved in a more "appropriate" position/alignment. The means of fixation was titanium plates and screws. In the winter months following the operation (I live in Australia), I experienced chronic low grade infections which were persistent if not debilitating - sore throat, respiratory tract infections, headaches, but, most notably, itchy, red, and often puffy eyes. My partner on one occasion remarked that my eyes looked as though they had shrunk! Perhaps most notable though, is the bluish/ purplish gray color which is now, to a greater or lesser extent, a permanent feature of the area extending up to the bridge of my nose and below the inner corner of my eyes. There have been no major changes to either my "lifestyle" or my diet (I eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables).

What I am wondering was could it be possible, if perhaps unlikely, that I have developed a reaction to the screws in my face. The screws in my upper jaw extend all the way up to just below the orbit of my eyes. I know that there is something not quite right with me, but I have ruled out many other possibilities (liver disfunction, HIV, Anaemia(sp. ?), and so am left wondering as to the cause of my symptoms. These symptoms appear worse in winter, and are often accompanied by lethargy and severe fatigue which onsets in the mid to late afternoon.

I hope you can help.

Oh, also, do you know anything about possible immune system reactions to injectable bovine collagen current used for cosmetic purposes.


Dear Megan,

Thank you for asking about a possible allergic reaction to titanium. I am unaware of anything in the allergy medical literature concerning allergic reactions to the metal titanium. If you were experiencing an immune reaction to the metal which has been introduced into your body, I would expect that you should have local symptoms of swelling and pain, which apparently you are not having.

A more possible answer would be that the metal implants are in some way extending into your sinuses, if indeed the screws were used in your upper maxillary region. This may produce symptoms of sinus pressure and recurrent sinus infections.

I hope that this is helpful to you.

No doubt you have discussed these possibilities with your oral surgeon as well.

You also asked about immune reactions to bovine collagen injections.

Beef collagen is a foreign protein, and as such, it may cause immune reactions in humans injected with it. Are we human, or are we beef? Our human immune system can tell the difference.

Good luck.

Steve Kagen, M.D.