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Dangers of Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants

Medical Device Watch
July 12, 2019
Metal-on-metal hip replacements continue fail prematurely and cause metallosis

Patients considering a hip implant will know from their doctor that the procedure carries inherent risks.  Many opt to take their chances, figuring that a 3 or 4 percent risk of having to redo the surgery is worth the opportunity to have their mobility restored.  Unfortunately, many victims of faulty metal-on-metal hip implants were never given the chance to make an informed decision.  Because the FDA cleared many problematic hip replacements through a process that does not require rigorous safety studies and clinical trials, nearly 1 in 5 metal-on-metal hip implant recipients are estimated to have suffered adverse consequences, spurring a rash of lawsuits against metal-on-metal hip implant manufacturers

Why do so many metal-on-metal hip implants fail?

Although all artificial hip implants wear out over time, metal-on-metal implants carry unique risks and a staggeringly high rate of failure because of their inherent design.  In metal-on-metal hip implants, the hip socket is replaced by a metal ball and cup, which slide against each other as the joint moves.  Over time, this wear and corrosion causes a release of metal ions into the bloodstream and surrounding tissue.  These metal particles can cause damage to the bone and tissue surrounding the implant and joint, causing pain and inflammation.  Worse yet, damage to the soft tissue may lead to a total device failure and the need to implant an entirely new device.    

Common symptoms of metal-on-metal hip implant injury. 

Not everyone reacts the same to the metal shed by metal-on-metal implants.  Some symptoms of a defective metal-on-metal hip implant injury can include localized symptoms in the hip and groin area such as swelling, pain, numbing, or reduced movement and mobility.  Other symptoms can be more generalized, and may include:

Manufacturers and brands named in metal-on-metal lawsuits.   

While only a handful of metal-on-metal hip implants have been formally recalled by the FDA, hundreds of others have been voluntarily recalled by manufacturers and none are currently approved for use by the FDA.  Thousands of victims have filed lawsuits against metal-on-metal device manufacturers, with more than $7.5 billion paid out in settlements and $1.7 billion awarded in jury verdicts to date.  These   lawsuits allege that the device manufacturers knew their designs were faulty or failed to adequately warn patients of the potential risks.  

Six companies dominated the market for metal-on-metal hip implant manufacturing and all have been the subject of past or pending legal action.  The faulty products and manufacturers include:

What should I do if I suspect I was injured by a metal-on-metal hip implant? 

  1. If you’ve had a metal-on-metal hip implant and are experiencing pain or symptoms in your hip or groin area, it is critical that you make an appointment with your orthopaedic surgeon to further evaluate your implant.  
  2. If you are experiencing any of the more generalized metal-on-metal implant symptoms outside of the hip/groin area, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician and inform them of your metal-on-metal hip implant during their evaluation.  
  3. If you aren’t experiencing any systems, you may still want to follow up with your orthopaedic surgeon to see if he or she advises more frequent monitoring of your hip implant.  

Many patients who have suffered from failed metal-on-metal hip replacement devices have been able to recoup medical costs and compensation for their pain and suffering.  However, claims and damages can be limited depending on whether the device was installed before or after a recall, whether there is an existing settlement in place, or a multi-district litigation is currently in progress.  The claims process can be confusing and is best navigated with the help of an attorney experienced in product liability litigation.  

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Medical Device Watch is sponsored by Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A. The medical device approval process in the U.S. allows for the sale of some devices that have not been tested in clinical trials on humans. Our goal is to help people protect themselves from the physical, emotional and financial harm that can be caused by medical devices that are defective.

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