Hip Replacement Patients Face Cancer Risk, Investigation Shows

Many metal hip implant patients may need to undergo lifelong annual monitoring, following the announcement of some disturbing evidence this week in Great Britain. A joint investigation, conducted by the BBC and the British Medical Journal (BMJ), warned that recipients of large-head metal-on-metal hip replacements may be at an increased risk of medical complications, including toxicity, muscle and bone degradation and even cancer.

The report prompted the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Great Britain’s government health regulator, to declare that approximately 49,000 British patients with large-head all-metal hip implants were in a high-risk category that would require regular monitoring.

Why are All-metal Hips Dangerous?

The primary concern with metal-on-metal artificial hips is that with the continued rubbing resulting from normal use, they produce metal shards that can enter the bloodstream. This metal debris is toxic to the body, and can destroy muscle and bone and cause inflammation.

Internal documents from a leading manufacturer of the all-metal hip replacements revealed that there is even concern that the debris may be carcinogenic. According to Dr. Tony Nargol, a consultant surgeon at the University Hospital of North Tees, the hospital is seeing hip replacement patients with remarkably high levels of cobalt and chromium debris in their blood.  He told BMJ, “We are seeing patients with 10, 20, 50 times normal levels. I think our highest level is nearly 300.”

DePuy’s History of Danger and Negligence

A major player in the manufacturing of dangerous hip replacements, DePuy is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s largest healthcare product giants. In 2010, one of DePuy’s hip replacement products—called the ASR—was recalled after it was found to be harmful to patients. That same year, the company was criticized by the FDA for illegally marketing an unapproved knee device, and for selling a hip replacement for unapproved use.

The recent report issued by the BBC and the BMJ implicates different medical devices that are still on the market today. Specifically, DePuy’s Pinnacle was named in the report. Dr. Nargol of the University Hospital of North Tees conducted research, tracking nearly 1,000 patients who had received the all-metal Pinnacle hip replacement. He found that 75 of them experienced implant failures related to metal debris.

In reaction to the more than 7,000 lawsuits already filed against DePuy, and in anticipation of more still to come, the company has set aside $3 billion in case they are legally required to pay compensation to patients injured by their medical devices.

What This Means for American Patients

According to an article in the New York Times, it is estimated that many, if not most of the half a million patients in the United States who received an all-metal hip transplant over the past 10 years were recipients of these potentially dangerous all-metal devices. While overall use of these types of devices is now down, due to the high failure rates, some surgeons still use them because they believe that the larger ball and socket mechanism will provide the joint with a greater range of motion and will lead to the decreased likelihood of dislocation.

According to Bloomberg, companies that make the all-metal hip replacements in question include:

  • DePuy/Johnson & Johnson
  • Zimmer Holdings Inc.
  • Smith & Nephew Plc.
  • Wright Medical
  • Stryker

Signs of Implant Failure

If you have had an all-metal hip replacement made by one of those listed above, or any other manufacturer, you may want to see your doctor to discuss how these new medical findings affect you. As always, keep an eye out for any new or troubling symptoms that might be related to your medical device. The FDA warns of potentially problematic signs and symptoms associated with all-metal hip replacements. Contact your physician for his or her medical advice, if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Pain in the groin, hip or leg
  • Swelling at or near the hip joint
  • A limp or a change in walking ability
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Changes in vision or hearing
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling cold
  • Weight gain
  • Change in urination habits

 Has Your Medical Device Caused You Injury?

If you have experienced injury or disease that you believe may be associated with your medical device, you may be eligible for compensation. Whether you were injured by a notoriously hazardous all-metal hip replacement or any other medical device, our expert attorneys are here to listen to your story and explain your legal rights. Contact our law offices today for a free consultation.

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