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Australia – Hip surgery ruins lives

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Hip surgery ruins lives

JACQUELINE GRAY enjoyed dancing, had a passion for surf lifesaving and did her own shopping.

Now the 53-year-old, who lives near the beach on the NSW mid-north coast, has lost her hair, is unable to walk without help and lives in excruciating pain.

Mrs Gray’s life changed five years ago when she underwent a hip replacement operation at Port Macquarie Base Hospital.

She was one of thousands of Australians fitted with a DePuy ASR hip implant, now the subject of global litigation over its high failure rate.

Depuy images

DePuy, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, voluntarily withdrew the metal implant last year. Cobalt and chromium, released as the implant wears away, have been leaching into patients’ blood, causing inflammation and benign tumours.

Mrs Gray, who has joined the class action, is unable to get around without help despite numerous surgical procedures. She takes painkillers daily and has lost her hair due to the level of chromium in her body.

”It’s changed my life completely,” she said. ”I used to be heavily involved in surf lifesaving, I was a level one coach, I used to train the kids, I used to love doing it but I can’t even get down on the beach now. It’s just gutted me,” she said.

Mrs Gray has spent months in a wheelchair, had four operations to rectify problems caused by the original implant and has chromium levels five times higher than normal.

She has a large blood clot in her affected leg, which has swollen to four times its original size, and has been told she will need to wear pressure stockings for the rest of her life.

Her husband, Warren, has to assist her with basic tasks. ”To put it mildly, it’s stuffed up our lives,” he said.

”She is only 53 now, so this could go on for another 30 or 40 years. With the stuff in her body, no one can tell us what’s going to happen in the future.”

More than 30,000 Australians undergo hip replacement surgery each year, the majority with no complications.

According to the National Joint Replacement Registry, about 5000 Australians were fitted with the DePuy ASR Resurfacing Device or the ASR Conventional Hip Device between 2003 and 2009.

DePuy Lawsuits images

The devices have been found to have a 12 to 13 per cent failure rate within five years, meaning about 650 Australians are potentially affected.

About 230 Australian patients have joined a class action by Shine Lawyers against the manufacturer in the US.

Solicitor Rebecca Jancauskas of Shine Lawyers said: ”There is such a huge number of people globally who have been affected.

”This surgery is so traumatic and having another hip replacement takes such a big toll, so for those reasons this is one of the largest and most severe medical stuff-ups we have seen.”

The action, to be brought in the US, will seek punitive damages as well as compensation.

A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson declined to comment on the action but said DePuy is offering support and information to those affected. “DePuy Orthopaedics Inc understands that the ASR recall is concerning for patients, their family members and surgeons,” she said.

”DePuy intends to cover reasonable and customary costs of testing and treatment for patients who need services, including revision surgery if it is necessary, associated with the ASR recall.”

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