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total hip replacement and hip resurfacing implants

All About Hip Implants

A total hip replacement device, or hip implant is a medical device used to replace a natural hip joint that has become extremely painful due to deformity or irreversible deterioration.  Total hip replacement surgery is also referred to as a "total hip arthroplasty" or THA. The reason that doctors recommend a hip replacement is to relieve the patient from pain from arthritis, worn cartilage and fractures from weakened bones or injury.

In addition to a total hip replacement in which the hip ball and socket are removed, a surgeon may recommend a hip resurfacing, in which the ball of the hip is trimmed and capped with a metal head instead of being removed. Hip resurfacing is considered to be a more conservative option because the patient retains more of their natural bone. It is often an option for active, younger adults.

Hip implants are designed to last 15 years or longer. However patients should be aware that their implant may fail sooner and at some point must be replaced. When a hip implant fails, revision surgery is the only way to eliminate the resulting pain and loss of mobility.

There are many makes and models of hip implants on the market. Like automobiles, the features and manufacturing specifications of these medical devices are unique. Therefore, size, material, and dimensions will vary across all makes and models. There is no “one size fits all” so it is critical that a patient receives the best hip implant for his or her body.

According to the FDA there are four types of total hip replacement devices now available in the U.S.:

However, metal-on-metal hip implants have been widely used in the past; the first MoM was implanted in 1938.  Their evolution continued into 2010, when surgeons and patients began reporting higher than usual failure rates and a high presence of chromium and cobalt ions in the bloodstream.

Today, there are no legally-marketed metal-on-metal total hip replacement systems in the U.S. However, there are two metal-on-metal resurfacing hip systems still available:

Defective Hip Implants and Metal on Metal Risks

There is no doubt that successful hip implants are extremely beneficial to a patient’s quality of life. A recent study by Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research® showed “that hip replacement can add years to life as well as adding 'life to years' -- increasing the chances of longer survival as well as improving the quality of life." The downside to hip replacement is that defective hip replacement devices continue to be used on patients.

Metal-on-metal implants have proven to be riskier than non-non metal-on-metal devices. When these defective hip implants fail, the pain can be excruciating, the patient may be unable to walk or even stand, and may even be poisoned by elevated levels of cobalt and chromium ions. Permanent, irreversible damage to bones, muscles and nerves may result in permanent disability.  For years, orthopedic studies have increasingly reported complications and potential problems of early failure of metal-on-metal hip systems, often requiring revision surgery. Much of the available data are from countries outside the U.S. such as Australia and the United Kingdom, who have been much better at tracking these cases.

Patients with a defective or failing metal-on-metal hip implant may present with symptoms or illnesses outside of the hip region such as:

Symptoms within the hip include:

Hip Replacement Devices to be Wary of

Metal on metal implants largely comprise the defective hip replacement systems recalled by the FDA. Defective hip implants include:

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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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