Hip joints often become diseased due to age-related medical conditions. As a result, hip replacement surgery is a very common procedure for older adults. There are various types of artificial hip implants that can be used to replace a diseased hip joint. Metal-on-metal hip implants are one of the most popular types. Unfortunately, these metal hip replacements have been linked to a number of serious complications, including hip failure, metallosis, and blood poisoning.
What are Metal Hip Replacements?
In a total hip replacement procedure, the doctor removes the patient’s diseased hip joint and replaces it with a manmade ball-and-socket joint. The problem with metal-on-metal replacement hips is that when the metal ball and socket move against each other, metal debris is released into the patient’s bloodstream. Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent this production of metal debris from metal replacement hips, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Some patients have very serious reactions to the metal debris and experience metallosis – a condition that can cause inflammation, extreme pain, and even blood poisoning. In addition, metallosis is linked to bone mass loss, damage to surrounding tissues, and hip failure. As a result, the FDA has disseminated a safety communication regarding metal hip replacements.
Symptoms and Treatment of Metallosis
Patients suffering from metallosis may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Skin rash
- Hearing or vision problems
- Renal function impairment
- Thyroid problems
- Heart disease
Some patients may not have any symptoms. Therefore, if you have a metal hip implant, it’s important that you ask your doctor for blood work to determine whether you’re experiencing metallosis.
Because of the serious health concerns involved, the treatment for metallosis usually includes hip revision surgery. During this surgery, the defective hip implant is removed and replaced with a new, safer model. Revision surgery is usually more challenging in instances where you have lost bone mass or suffered tissue damage.
Recalled Metal Replacement Hips
Over the past several years, tens of thousands of metal hip replacements have been recalled, including the following popular models:
- DePuy ASR XL Acetabular Hip System and DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing System
- Zimmer Durom Acetabular Component (Durom Cup)
- Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II Modular-Neck Stem
- Smith & Nephew R3 Metal Liners of the R3 Acetabular System
Many of the recalled metal replacement hips have been linked to metallosis and other complications. Because the FDA has limited resources, oftentimes recalls of medical devices are voluntary, meaning it’s up to the manufacturers themselves to recall the devices. As a result, many defective metal hip implants may not have been recalled.
Manufacturer’s Legal Liability
Because numerous patients have suffered metallosis and other serious health issues due to defective metal hip replacements, thousands of product liability lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of metal-on-metal replacement hips. Under product liability laws, hip implant manufacturers are required to provide patients with safe and defect-free medical devices. Generally, patients who file product liability lawsuits proceed under one or more of the following legal grounds:
- A defect in the design of the metal hip implant caused patients to suffer adverse health consequences.
- The manufacturer failed to release adequate warnings about the risks associated with their metal hip replacements.
- A manufacturing defect occurred, causing the device to be more dangerous than intended.
If the patients prevail in their lawsuits, they could be awarded damages for their lost earnings, medical costs, and pain and suffering related to the defective hip implants. In one recent metal defective hip implant trial, a jury awarded a patient millions of dollars in damages. A number of other cases have been settled out of court.