Hip Replacement Failure: Symptoms and Treatment

Hip replacements are a great source of relief for many people suffering from hip pain. However, sometimes a hip replacement fails long before its intended lifespan, making additional surgeries necessary.  Initially, metal-on-metal hip models were thought to be long-lasting and reliable. However, friction between the metal components of these types of hips causes them to wear down much sooner than expected.

As a result of this wear, chromium and cobalt particles are released into the surrounding tissues and bloodstream. Many patients experience an immune or allergic reaction to these metal particles, causing pain, inflammation, fluid accumulation, tumor-like masses, muscle and bone destruction, and hip dislocation. In addition, the friction between metal components can cause the hip replacement to also become loose and detached from the bone. Consequently, a number of hip manufacturers, like DePuy and Stryker, have recalled many of their metal-on-metal models.

What Are the Symptoms of Hip Replacement Failure?

Although some patients with a failing hip may not experience symptoms, most patients will notice a number of signs that indicate something is wrong with their artificial hip. The FDA identifies the symptoms of all-metal hip failure as follows:

  • Pain during movement or walking
  • Swelling near hip or in groin area
  • Lumps near affected hip
  • Dislocation, or a feeling that the joint has “slipped”
  • Squeaking or popping noises during movement

In addition, elevated levels of chromium or cobalt in the bloodstream can indicate that the hip replacement is prematurely wearing down and may fail. Abnormal amounts of these metals in the bloodstream may cause neurological symptoms, like blurred vision and dizziness, as well as organ damage.

Tests for an Accurate Diagnosis of Hip Replacement Failure

For those who experience symptoms, testing will be necessary to determine the next course of action.  Tests may include:

  • Physical assessment
  • MRI
  • Blood testing for metal levels (chromium and cobalt)
  • Ultrasound

Even those patients who do not experience problems with metal-on-metal replacement hips should be monitored and assessed periodically.  In addition, if patients suspect that their metal-on-metal hip is defective or has been recalled, they should visit their doctor to determine the brand of their replacement hip and the best course of treatment.

Treatment Options and Next Steps

Treatment of hip replacement failure includes resurfacing of the “ball and socket” parts of the hip or, in many circumstances, a total hip revision. During hip revision surgery, the faulty hip is removed and replaced with a new, safer model. Fluid and dead tissue from around the hip must be removed as well.  In most cases, hospitalization and physical therapy are necessary to promote a return to normal joint function.  Treating a failing replacement hip can be a long, difficult, and costly road back to normalcy.

Companies that manufacture metal-on-metal hip replacements are often held liable for the expenses incurred during the repair or replacement of their defective products.  In addition to consulting your doctor about any new hip pain or movement problems, you should contact a lawyer who specializes in medical device recalls and defects to learn more about your legal rights.