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To assess whether corrosion of tungsten coils is related to residual shunting and
to evaluate whether elevated tungsten serum levels are associated with local or systemic
Tungsten coils (SPI, Balt, France) were implanted into the subclavian artery of New
Zealand white rabbits leading to a residual high-flow shunt in 5/10 rabbits. Serial
serum tungsten levels, complete blood count and clinical chemistry were analysed prior
to the implantation as well as 15 min, 2 and 4 months thereafter. After 4 months the
rabbits underwent repeat angiography before they were sacrificed and the internal
organs were evaluated histopathologically.
Mean tungsten levels rose from 0.48 microg/l prior to the implantation to 12.4 microg/l
4 months post-implantation. The rise in serum tungsten levels was neither associated
with residual shunting present at the time of implantation nor with residual shunting
at the time of explantation. One animal had to be sacrificed because of non-resolving
palsy of the upper extremity. The remaining animals had an uneventful clinical course
with no signs of toxicity of the elevated tungsten levels. Histological examination
revealed no evidence of local or systemic toxicity of the tungsten coils.
Tungsten coils corrode and lead to a steady increase in serum tungsten levels starting
as early as 15 min after implantation. Residual shunting does not seem to influence
the kinetics of corrosion of tungsten coils. Despite markedly elevated serum tungsten
levels 4 months after implantation degradation of tungsten coils is not associated
with local or systemic toxicity.