Metallosis from Hip Replacement: Symptoms and Treatment

Hip replacement is a very common surgery for older adults. The operation is often necessary when a patient’s hip joint has become diseased or damaged due to osteoarthritis, physical injury, or a number of other conditions. During the procedure, your doctor removes your diseased or damaged hip joint and replaces it with an artificial ball-and-socket joint.

Until recently, many of the artificial hip systems were made out of metal. However, these metal-on-metal replacement hips have been linked to a painful and dangerous condition called metallosis.

Symptoms of Metallosis from Hip Replacement

Friction between the metal ball and socket of your hip joint can cause metal particles to be released into your bloodstream.  As a result, some patients may have a serious reaction to the foreign debris, known as metallosis. Patients who have metallosis may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Skin Rash:  metallosis can cause patients to develop rashes on their bodies.
  • Heart Disease: metallosis can impair the functioning of the heart, leading to heart disease.
  • Auditory or Visual Impairments: changes in a patient’s ability to hear or see may be associated with metallosis.
  • Renal Function Impairment: metal blood poisoning can cause kidney failure if left untreated.
  • Psychological Changes:  the onset of depression or other psychological issues may be linked to metallosis.
  • Thyroid dysfunction: metallosis can interfere with a patient’s thyroid function, leading to weight gain, temperature sensitivity, fatigue, and neck discomfort.

The following factors may put a patient at greater risk of developing metallosis from hip replacement:

  • Body Type: severely overweight patients are more likely to experience negative reactions to metal ions in their blood.
  • Gender: women are generally more likely to develop metallosis than men.

In some instances, you may not have any symptoms. This doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t experiencing metallosis. Some symptoms may be subtle or slow to develop. If metallosis is left untreated, it can cause bone loss, tissue damage, and failure of your hip implant. If you’ve received a metal-on-metal replacement hip, you should be aware of these common issues and seek medical attention if needed.

Because metallosis is a serious condition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a safety communication regarding metal-on-metal hip implants. Over the past several years, tens of thousands of metal-on-metal hip replacements have been recalled. Many of these models have been linked to metallosis from hip replacement.

Consequently, thousands of patients have filed product liability lawsuits against hip replacement manufacturers, claiming their all-metal replacement hips have a dangerous defect that caused them to deteriorate. If the lawsuits are successful, patients who experienced metallosis may be able to recover damages related to any medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering that resulted from the metal-on-metal hip implants.

Treatment for Metallosis from Hip Replacement

If you had a metal-on-metal hip replacement, it’s extremely important that you consult your doctor and request an examination along with blood work. Your doctor will be able to prescribe the best course of medical treatment. You should also ask your doctor about the type of hip implant you have. If your doctor can’t help, you should request your medical records from the hospital where you had your hip replacement surgery.

In many cases, the treatment for metallosis from hip replacement is revision surgery. During this surgery, your doctor will remove your defective hip implant and replace it with a new hip implant.  However, this surgery is not without risks. According to the FDA, you could experience bleeding, infection, blood clots and a reaction to the anesthesia. Revision surgery may be more difficult in cases where you have bone loss or tissue damage.

The Next Steps You Should Take

If it turns out your replacement hip was the subject of a recall, you may want to consider contacting an attorney to learn more about your legal options. Even if your replacement hip hasn’t been recalled, you may still have a viable product liability claim if you experienced complications related to a metal hip. However, because the statute of limitations generally limits the time that you have to file a lawsuit, your claim may be barred if it’s not brought in a timely manner.