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Pain, Disability Plague Many with Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants
Rather than the relief that most hoped would follow hip replacement surgery, many patients who have received metal-on-metal hip implants say the devices have left them in misery. According to a report from the Sacramento Bee, some recipients of metal-on-metal hips have experienced early failures of their implants, and now face the prospect of additional surgery, possible disability, and even a danger of later health problems due to metal poisoning.
Michael Stieler, 68, told the Sacramento Bee that his life has been turned upside down since he received a DePuy ASR hip implant, an all-metal device, in 2007. As we’ve reported previously, DePuy Orthopaedics, a division of Johnson & Johnson, recalled the ASR hip implant last August because of a high number of early failures. In some cases, wearing of the implants’ metal components has caused it to shed high levels of cobalt and chromium into recipients’ bloodstream.
According to the article, after receiving his implant, Steiler noticed a “clicking noise” when he walked, and it began to hurt so much that he had to use crutches and was unable to turn over in bed. After being informed of the ASR hip implant recall, blood tests revealed abnormally high levels of cobalt and chromium in Steiler’s system, and he was faced with having to undergo revision surgery.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, metal hips like the DePuy ASR hip implant have been the subject of concern for some time now. According to a report published by The New York Times in March 2010, metal-on-metal hip implants have been used in about one-third of the approximately 250,000 hip replacements performed annually in this country. However, many of the nation’s leading orthopedic surgeons have reduced or stopped use of these devices because of concerns that they can cause patients serious problems if they fail. When metal shavings to make their way into patients’ bloodstreams, they may suffer tissue breakdown, bone loss, and even the formation of non-cancerous tumors, and even cobalt poisoning.
Last month, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) asked DePuy Orthopaedics and 20 other manufacturers of metal-on-metal hip implants to conduct safety studies aimed at determining if these devices are shedding dangerous amounts of metallic debris in patients. They have also been told to determine how often their metal-on-metal hip implants fail prematurely. The FDA’s action was prompted by consumer complaints about the devices. According to an FDA official who spoke with The New York Times, the agency had determined that there were “significant enough medical concerns to warrant a broad review of metal-on-metal hips.”
Dr. Joshua Jacobs, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, told the Sacramento Bee that because of these risks, patients should not ignore pain that might be connected to their hip implant. “The symptom that patients become aware of is pain,” he said. “They should not ignore hip pain. It could be caused by bursitis or referred pain from the spine. Or it could be an adverse local tissue response.”
People who claim to have been injured by all-metal hips are beginning to seek legal remedies for their pain and suffering. In the U.S., many DePuy ASR hip implant lawsuits have been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. DePuy is also facing lawsuits over its Pinnacle hip implant, another metal-on-metal device that is similar in design to the ASR implant. Recently, DePuy Pinnacle hip implant lawsuits were consolidated in a multidistrict litigation in federal court in Texas.
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