DePuy All-Metal Hip Implants: Like Metal Grinding On Metal

The New York Times reports on grim scenes in hospitals nationwide as a more patients seek to have defective metal-on-metal artificial hips removed and replaced.

More than a decade ago, some researchers had warned that the hips shed tiny pieces of metallic debris that posed potential health threats to patients.

The warnings were ignored, and now doctors and patients face a growing public health problem as one of the country's biggest medical device failures unfolds

"What We Are Seeing Is A Complex Phenomenon"

Words you never want to hear from your treating physician. The New York Times quoted Dr. Kwon, a specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. The story describes the odd behavior of the metal debris generated by the all-metal hip replacements.

It appears that in some patients the tiny metal shavings interact with the body's cells that are designed to remove foreign matter and create "biologically active metallic ions" that can destroy tissue. Many doctors have been slow to recognize the problem.

One woman in The New York Times story told how she had heard of the recall of the DePuy ASR hip implant, and was concerned because she had received that implant. Doctors ran basic blood tests that came back normal. She was not convinced, and insisted on an additional test, which showed very high metal content.

She is now suing DePuy, noting, "If I had not played an aggressive role, I think I would have had permanent damage."

Yet another patient told of seeing seven doctors in a year. He was told not to worry or they just gave him pain medication. He eventually had to have extensive surgery to clean up the "dead zone" that surrounded his implant.

DePuy Orthopedics Recall

In August of 2010, DePuy Orthopedics recalled their devices from the market after receiving reports that a higher-than-normal number of patients required surgery to correct or remove defective implants.

Kevin J. Bozic, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and vice chair of orthopedics at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, said in a report published in Arthritis Today that the failure rate for the DePuy ASR hip replacement appears to be about twice the industry average.

"It was a design failure that frankly wasn't picked up until they were implanted in thousands of patients," Dr. Bozic says.

Lawsuits

At least 500 cases involving the DePuy hip implants have been consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

They allege defects and failure to warn of those defects in DePuy's ASR XL acetabular and ASR hip resurfacing systems.

DePuy allegedly was made aware of potential problems with the design in 2005, but disputed the warnings and continued to heavily promote the ASR Hip for the next four years, according to one of the lawsuits.

If you have received a metal-on-metal hip implant, you should check with your doctor to see if you need your replacement replaced. If you are suffering pain or discomfort, delaying treatment could result in permanent damage.