For those who have suffered a hip fracture, severe arthritis, or difficulty walking from a hip injury, a hip replacement is suppose to be a life altering improvement. Unfortunately, thanks to sub-par hip replacements from manufacturers like DePuy, all too often it brings a new level of pain and discomfort—and sometimes, dangerous revision surgery. DePuy has produced metal-on-metal hips that have a much higher failure rate than other replacement hips, and have put thousands of lives at risk.
If you’ve had complications with a DePuy hip, you need to speak to a lawyer immediately. John Foy & Associates is among the most experienced medical injury law firms in the country. Call us at 404-400-4000 and get a free consultation today.
How do DePuy hip replacements work?
Hip replacements are used when the hip cannot comfortably support weight or move through its full range of motion. In some cases this is because of damage to the hip itself, such as a fracture, which does not allow the hip to support weight. In other cases it’s because of arthritis that has made hip motion unbearably painful. A hip replacement is meant to restore a wide degree of motion, without the pain.
However, it’s also a major surgery. Hip replacements must be installed into the body (“implanted”) and are meant to be permanent. A typical hip replacement consists of a ball and socket joint just like the hip itself. The natural hip is formed by the ball-like protrusion of the femur bone fitting into the acetabulum, the socket-like opening on the pelvic bone. A hip replacement consists of an artificial socket installed into the acetabulum (the “cup”) and a ball-like component (the “head”) fixed onto the femur. The head is attached to the femur by a sort of metal shaft that is driven deep into the bone.
Not all replacement hips are made of the same materials. The head is typically made of metal or a plastic like material; the socket may be made of plastic, metal or ceramic.
DePuy’s faulty hip replacements chose to make all components out of metal. This is an unusual choice, and one that we now know puts patients at risk.
What’s wrong with the DePuy metal-on-metal hips?
When both parts of a replacement hip are made of metal, they rub against each other and grind off tiny particles of metal. These metal particles are supposed to pass naturally through the body and be eliminated, but that doesn’t always happen. In some individuals, they build up to dangerous levels.
Many patients experience an allergic reaction to the metal particles. They can cause a serious inflammation response where the body is essentially attacking itself. In many cases tumor-like growths may develop on the tissue surrounding the hip joint. As the inflammation spreads, it can kill soft tissue and bone. The pain from this kind of response is incredible—patients have compared it to having a fire inside their body. Ultimately, the pain can be so disabling that the person cannot walk on the hip joint.
Additionally, the cobalt in the metal alloy is toxic in large amounts, and leaching of cobalt ions into the bloodstream can cause cobalt poisoning. Cobalt poisoning may lead to nerve damage and thyroid and heart problems. Buildup of these ions may also contribute to irritation and pain around the joint.
What happens when a hip replacement fails?
A hip replacement is considered to have “failed” if pain or disability is so severe that surgery is needed to correct the problem. This surgery is known as revision surgery and it is risky and painful.
Revision surgery is supposed to be uncommon. But metal-on-metal hip replacements have a horrifying failure rate of 1 to 3%. For DePuy’s hips, the rate is 12 to 13%. That’s one in every eight patients.
Even when revision surgery is performed, it is not a cure-all. The original hip can never be restored. The surgeon can only hope to remove the current implant and put in a different hip replacement instead, cleaning the area as best as possible during surgery. Worse, bone literally attaches to a metal implant, and the revision will involve a loss of bone mass as well as muscle mass and hip strength. Revisions are more difficult than the original implant surgery, with unpredictable results. Even with a successful revision there is no guarantee that the problems caused by the first implant will be resolved. In some cases, a faulty metal-on-metal hip replacement can cause lifetime harm.
Is DePuy liable for the harm caused?
Yes. DePuy originally brought its metal-on-metal hip replacements to market with no clinical trials, claiming the devices were “substantially similar” to other hip replacements on the market. Clearly, the difference in failure rates shows that that’s not true. The FDA has now issued new guidelines for DePuy’s devices and ordered clinical trials. DePuy has recalled two hip systems, admitting they had a higher failure rate.
But 93,000 patients have already had the DePuy hips implanted. That means thousands, or even tens of thousands, of patients may be in pain or face permanent disability due to DePuy’s faulty product.
If you’ve had complications from a DePuy hip replacement, you have rights. The law says that you can recover your costs including the initial surgery, revision surgery, medical bills and ongoing care. You may also be able to get a financial recovery for damages such as pain, anguish and lost work time. To do so, you should to speak to a lawyer.
John Foy & Associates employs some of the most experienced and knowledgeable medical injury attorneys in the country. We always represent the patient, never big corporations. We offer a FREE consultation and we charge nothing unless we get you a financial recovery. Call 404-400-4000 and get your free consultation today.