When Gary contacted me, my first thought was “How can I help?” I shared that I have a titanium clip in my head and had experienced many of the challenges his daughter was going through.
I suffered horrible migraines beginning two days before a thunderstorm and lasting until it moved out of the area.
I suggested Ashley see a functional medicine doctor who could test for heavy metal toxicity as well as other nutritional imbalances.
All conditions I’d had to deal with.
I shared that I’d taken Armour thyroid and had heavy metal toxicity (mercury, lead, nickel, and cadmium), and that I’d been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Gary replied, explaining that they had gone that route and went on to share more of what his daughter had been through. It was a story I recognized all too well.
I invited them to share their story. We all hope it provides hope and help to others who may be suffering.
Titanium Bone Plates, Electromagnetic Sensitivity and Autoimmune Disease
A 10-year Struggle to Find and Correct the Cause of Deteriorating Health
This is the story of a previously healthy teenage girl and her struggle to find and correct the cause of deteriorating health that began at age 14. This is the story of my daughter Ashley.
By profession I am a research scientist. My inclination is generally to write highly technical papers describing the subject matter of a catchy title. I’m going to abstain from this; instead striving to keep this brief and easy to read in the hopes that others may benefit.
My daughter Ashley progressed into her teen years just like any other active teenager. She began ballet at age 3, and entering into her mid-teens, she was dancing 3-4 days per week plus 3-4 performances back-to-back at 2 yearly recitals. She was active in her school, her church, baby-sitting, family and friends; Ashley never stopped moving.
At age 14 her dentist recommended she see a Maxillofacial Surgeon because her upper pallet was not aligned properly with her lower jaw. She underwent orthognathic surgery during summer vacation which included 4 Titanium straps (most often called plates, or bone plates) and screws to hold her pallet in place while the bone mended. The surgery went well and she was back to her normal self in a few months.
There was no lingering discomfort or apparent side-effects until about two years later.
Above Photo: Osteotomy with Titanium metal plates
At age 16 we were dining at a restaurant situated above a marina. As a flybridge yacht docked in front of the restaurant I could see the stress in my daughter’s demeanor. Ashley has been around marinas and boats her whole life; she looked at me and said she could feel in her face the effects of the spinning radar antenna each time it rotated towards her. When I asked the boat captain to turn off the radar, the effect subsided within a few minutes.
At age 17 Ashley seemed like she was always in pain. We attributed this to years of intense ballet dancing, but cutting back her schedule did not seem to help. After seeing a few doctors she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread muscle pain, fatigue, and multiple tender points. We discovered that vitamin and nutrient supplementation including Co-enzyme Q10, a powerful antioxidant and essential component of mitochondria, alleviated most of the discomfort. Mitochondria are the energy producing units of living cells and Ashley responded to this therapy.
At age 18, as Ashely was entering college, she began what we now recognize as a downward spiral. There were occasional Fibromyalgia flare-ups, she developed a sensitivity to high voltage power distribution lines, and she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. She was prescribed Armour Thyroid to treat the thyroid condition and over time we convinced her Endocrinologist that she appeared thyroid hormone resistant. This was critical because her bloodwork often revealed normal thyroid levels while she experienced symptoms of an under-active thyroid. In addition, throughout her college years it seemed like she experienced one chronic illness after another. We lost count of the number of rounds of antibiotics prescribed over those years. To this day I don’t know how she persisted to graduate college with honors.
After college at age 22, Ashley took the summer off to rest before full-time employment in the fall. As the weather turned cooler her tendency toward chronic illnesses reappeared and often seemed related to the office environment; if anyone else was sick, she was not far behind. By age 24, having grown weary of conventional medicine, Ashley moved to a functional medicine doctor who expressed concerns about Titanium, possible metal toxicity, and worked diligently to strengthen her immune system. I have highlighted below a list of his assessments, advanced metabolic testing and life-style changes that evolved over the course of treatment.
- autoimmune disease
- adrenal deficiency
- immune responses
- myalgia / fibromyalgia
- heavy metals testing
- blood testing to check hormone / vitamin levels
- saliva testing to measure adrenal function / cortisol levels
- diet with lots of fruits and veggies – almost no sugars or grains
- customized vitamin and mineral supplementation
- focus on beneficial sleep, exercise and yoga therapy
While her experience with the functional medicine doctor was beneficial, he was struggling to identify direct causation for the chronic symptoms that continually reappeared. As the weather turned cooler during the fall of 2014, a late summer thunder-storm changed everything! Ashley suffered a debilitating sensitivity to lightning (electrical discharge) from thunder-storms. With every flash of lightning to strike nearby, Ashley experienced increasingly intense maxillofacial pain aligned with the Titanium plates. She managed to gain some relief by standing barefoot on the concrete floor in our garage; in essence grounding her body from the electrical activity.
After reporting back to the functional medicine doctor we collectively analyzed 4-months of test data looking for any explanation or alternative treatment. There was clear evidence of an immune system deficiency, however negative results from the myriad of concurrent treatment modalities all pointed to the same conclusion; the Titanium plates must be removed. The metal plates are no longer necessary (the bone fully healed years ago) and while the pain from facial surgery is decidedly unpleasant, there was no other medically sound alternative.
When we approached the original maxillofacial surgeon and told him of Ashley’s symptoms, he agreed to remove the metal plates. It turned substantially cooler in mid-September, 2014 and Ashley’s chronic symptoms reappeared with a vengeance. She went through several rounds of antibiotics back-to-back for recurrent infections before the scheduled surgery date. By the time we arrived at the hospital, the admitting staff sought to delay surgery, but Ashley vehemently protested… “It’s the metal plates causing these problems; I need them out now!”
The surgery proceeded as scheduled and the Titanium metal plates were removed. Ten days after surgery, and mostly weaned off narcotic pain meds, my daughter reported that her lower body felt “unusually calm.”
We visited an area with high voltage overhead power lines and the electrical sensitivity was 100% gone. There was also a brief late season thunder-storm during this period with a few local lightning strikes; the prior sensitivity to lightning also appears to be resolved.
Above Photo: The actual Titanium plates that were removed, mounted on a key ring for display.
Two months after surgery the overall health benefits are more than we could have hoped for. While it’s quite possible the care provided to Ashley by her functional medicine doctor is a contributing factor, there is every indication the prior autoimmune disorder is substantially diminished, if not completely resolved. Considering all of the various modalities of discomfort experienced over recent years, this is by far the healthiest 2-months of the last 5-years. Living in the mid-Atlantic we are in the midst of the winter season, yet Ashley has been free of colds and infections. She has ceased pain meds without recurrent fibromyalgia.
It would be premature to pronounce a cure; the mere diagnosis of autoimmune diseases is difficult. There is little doubt however, that Titanium appears to have been the most significant contributor to Ashley’s deteriorating health. In the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery it is reported that of 190 patients followed post-surgery, 10.6% developed complications from plates or screws that required removal. In each case, prompt removal constituted adequate management. In another study of 570 patients including upper and lower jaw orthognathic surgery, 27.5% required removal. Hopefully this paper may help those facing similar dilemmas.
Quoting my daughter Ashley… “See, it’s not just me; I’m not crazy”
Footnote: There are technical details of Physics and Physiology that have been omitted from this paper. For anyone interested in a more in-depth technical discussion, or just to ask questions, the author may be reached at: GLM_Research@verizon.net
- Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
1998 Feb; 56(2):184-8.
The removal of plates and screws after Le Fort I osteotomy
Schmidt BL, Perrott DH, Mahan D, Kearns G.
- Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology and Endodontics
Volume 112, Issue 6, Pages 737–743, December 2011
Plate removal following orthognathic surgery
Bart Falter, MD, Serge Schepers, MD, DDS’, Luc Vrielinck, MD, DDS, Ivo Lambrichts, DMD, PhD, Constantinus Politis, MD, DDS, MHA, MM