Medical Malpractice

Failure of Metal On Metal Hip Replacements

The Six Million Dollar Man of TV fame has nothing on today’s baby boomers. They want to remain physically active even when their natural bodies start to wear out.

As a result, more than 285,000 total hip replacements are performed each year.

Problems with Some Hip Replacements

An artificial hip includes two parts, a cup and a ball. Originally, one part was made of metal and the other of plastic. About 10 years ago, manufacturers came out with a model that used metal on both sides. Soon, these “sturdier” devices accounted for about one-third of all hip replacements.

Artificial hips made from metal and plastic typically last about 15 years. But the metal-on-metal replacements were failing much sooner. Plus, they were “shedding” metallic debris that damaged tissue and bone and led to symptoms like skin rashes, neurological changes such as hearing and vision impairment, and psychological problems like depression.

An estimated 500,000 patients in the United States have received metal-on-metal hips from a variety of manufacturers. This is one of the biggest medical device failures in recent decades. Today, metal-on-metal devices are used in only about five percent of hip replacement procedures.

DePuy Lawsuit

Patients who already have a metal-on-metal hip must decide what to do. About 93,000 patients around the world received one model, the A.S.R. manufactured by the DePuy division of Johnson & Johnson. About one-third of these patients reside in the United States. It was recalled in mid-2010.

An internal analysis conducted by the company following this recall estimates that the all-metal device would fail within five years in nearly 40 percent of patients who received it. The company did not release this information but it became public in early 2013 as a court document.

In January 2013, the first of more than 10,000 lawsuits by patients who received an A.S.R. went to trial. About 7,000 of them have been consolidated in a federal court in Ohio. An additional 2,000 have been consolidated in a California state court.

Zimmer Holdings Inc., another manufacturer of recalled hip joints, is also facing lawsuits.

FDA Takes Action

In May 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered a post-market surveillance study on metal-on-metal hip replacements to see if they were shedding high levels of metallic debris.

In January 2013, the FDA proposed that companies making metal-on-metal artificial hip joints produce medical evidence demonstrating their safety in order to stay on the market. Any new devices of this type will require human clinical evidence before they are approved. Because of an omission in a 1976 law, these devices did not previously need to pass clinical trials.

A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding damages caused by metal-on-metal artificial hip replacements is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a personal injury lawyer who is familiar with this issue.

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