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Metal on metal hip replacement, should you be concerned?.

Metal on metal hip replacement, should you be concerned?

Hip replacements are one of the biggest successes of modern medicine, reducing pain and improving mobility for patients. However, metal-on-metal hip replacements have recently come under wide scrutiny.

In 2010 the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued a safety alert for metal-on-metal hip replacements, advising that operations should be followed by a check-up after five years.

When successful, this implant can provide years of trouble-free use with lower levels of wear and tear than other materials. They also allow for much larger femoral heads to be used in the implant, resulting in a larger range of hip movement and greater stability, making dislocation less likely. Metal-on-metal hip replacements are still being used, although numbers in the UK have fallen significantly from 8,072 in 2008 to 673 in 2011.

While most cause no problems, there are a minority that can be dangerous. Research carried out at the University of Bristol analysing information from 402,051 operations in England and Wales found that 6.2% of metal-on-metal hip replacements failed within five years – three times higher than metal-on-plastic or ceramic-on-ceramic alternatives.

If they fail, they can produce particles of cobalt and chromium, triggering a reaction that can cause erosion of the bones and potentially loosen the implant. Furthermore in March 2012, the MHRA said some patients should have annual blood tests as these tiny fragments of metal could leak into the blood and cause muscle and bone damage as well as neurological issues.

Usually, any metal ions absorbed into the bloodstream are filtered out by the kidneys into the urine, but blood tests can identify whether the concentration of ions is dangerous. It’s vital to have a blood test if you are one of the 49,000 affected patients in the UK.

Patients who have received either a DePuy ASR or ASR XL hip replacement should have been contacted by their hospital or GP already following the recall in 2010. Many manufacturers are covering the cost of any investigations and treatment to rectify the problem but for others legal compensation can be sought.

National law firm Linder Myers specialises in medical negligence cases including metal on metal hip replacements.

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