Hip Replacement Prosthesis Types: Get to Know Your Artificial Hip

Hip replacement prosthesis surgery is one of the most common orthopedic procedures. Thousands of Americans undergo hip replacement surgery each year to relieve arthritis pain and joint damage. During the surgery, the ball-and-socket hip joint is replaced with an implant that allows the patient to move around with the ease of a natural hip.

The most popular types of replacement hips are: metal-on-metal, ceramic-on-metal, ceramic-on-ceramic, and polyethylene (plastic). While complications are always a possibility, certain types of replacement hips carry more risks than others. This article provides an overview of hip replacement prosthesis types and their associated risks.

Metal-on-Metal

In metal-on-metal replacement hips, both the ball and socket are composed of metal. The friction between these metal components can cause metal-on-metal hips to deteriorate at a faster-than-average rate. For example, while replacement hips are intended to last 15 to 20 years, many patients have reported that their all-metal hips failed after only a few years.

In addition, the friction between the hips’ metal components can release metal ions into the hip area, causing a condition known as metallosis. Metallosis can result in infection, swelling, pain, and even blood poisoning. In many cases, metallosis will require the patient to undergo total hip revision – a surgery in which the metal implant is removed and replaced with a new replacement hip.

As a result of their higher-than-average failure rate, many metal-on-metal implants have been the subject of voluntary recalls and lawsuits. Manufacturers have a legal duty to ensure products are not overly dangerous or defective for ordinary uses. If a user is injured as a result of a defective product, the user may be entitled to compensation under products liability law. Patients should seek professional help if experiencing any of the above symptoms or if your implant has been recalled.

Ceramic-on-Metal

Ceramic-on-metal hip replacement prosthesis models have a metal-lined socket with a ceramic ball. There’s typically less friction between the components of ceramic-on-metal implants as compared to metal-on-metal implants. As a result, ceramic-on-metal implants wear down at a slower rate than their all-metal counterparts.

Although studies show that ceramic-on-metal hip implants are safer than metal-on-metal implants, some manufacturers, like Johnson & Johnson, have discontinued sales of their ceramic-on-metal products following the recall of many metal implants. However, it’s largely a cautionary measure over concerns about the safety of the implants’ metal material, rather than a defect in the ceramic components.

If you have a ceramic-on-metal implant but experience side effects similar to those of metal-on-metal implants, it could be a reaction to metal ions from the hip’s metal components. Contact your doctor for a further analysis. Legal remedies may also be available for defective ceramic-on-metal replacement hips.

Ceramic-on-Ceramic

Ceramic-on-ceramic hip replacement prosthesis models have a ceramic ball and a ceramic lined socket. Since ceramic is the hardest hip replacement prosthesis material, full ceramic replacement hips have the lowest wear rate of all implant types. This prevents the implant from loosening and spreading broken implant debris in the body.

However, ceramic-on-ceramic replacement hips that were implanted in the 1980s and 1990s may undergo “catastrophic shattering” due to fractures in the hard material. The effect is similar to a cracked ceramic vase. Fortunately, shattering is no longer a problem in more recent implants.

On the other hand, patients who have received more recent ceramic-on-ceramic models may experience squeaking in their prosthetic. The squeaking may subside over time, but could become a nuisance. In serious cases, this condition can be corrected with revision surgery. If your ceramic hip undergoes catastrophic shattering or chronically squeaks, the manufacturer may be liable for your injuries under product liability law.

Polyethylene (Plastic)

Polyethylene (plastic) is a material used for the socket or lining of the socket of metal-on-polyethylene or ceramic-on-polyethylene hip replacement prosthesis types. Plastic material implants are the earliest type of hip replacements. Currently, high quality, reliable plastic material known as ultra highly cross-linked polyethylene or ultra high molecular weight polyethylene is used to reduce wear and tear.

Although improved, hip replacement prosthesis types using plastic can still wear over time, releasing plastic particles into your body. These particles can lead to infections and other serious complications, including osteolysis – a condition that can cause bones to deteriorate. Generally, revision surgery is required to halt osteolysis and replace the faulty implant. If you’ve suffered complications caused by a defective polyethylene hip replacement, you may have a cause of action against the maker of the prosthesis.