Metal Hip Implants

Plaintiff Shirley F. was implanted with a Wright hip implant in 2008. Just over a year later, she began having serious issues with the implant. After going to the doctors who performed painful tests, they discovered that the hip replacement caused tissue damage. As a result, she was required to undergo revision surgery—all of which resulted in high medical bills. Shirley filed a hip implant lawsuit because of the severity of her condition and the price of the multiple surgeries to correct problem. By doing this, she hopes to gain some kind of compensatory damages for the physical and emotional pain and suffering she has experienced due to the defective hip implant. This suit alleges Wright of negligence, defective design, failure to warn and breach of express and implied warranties [1]. Unfortunately, she is one of many patients who suffer from hip replacements that do more harm than good.

What is a Hip Replacement?

Hip replacements are intended to repair an aged or injured hip joint by adding an artificial joint or implant to replace the natural joint. The reasons for these implants are due to a fracture, arthritis or wearing down of the joint over time. And while there are varied designs and models of hips built by several manufacturing companies, there are three basic components of an artificial hip. There is a stem that is inserted into the femur (thighbone); a ball that attaches to the top of the femur; and a cup that attaches to the pelvis. The simplicity of the design has allowed companies to experiment with different models that use an array of materials. These materials range or are formed by a combination of plastics, ceramics and metals. Recently, out of the possible materials to use, metal-on-metal combinations are the most coveted because of the foreseen longevity of the design. The hope for these hip replacements was to give younger and active patients more pain-free mobility for more years.

The different types of implant devices include:

  • Metal Ball and Polyethylene (Plastic) Cup or Liner (MoP)
  • Metal Ball and Metal Cup (MoM)
  • Ceramic Ball and Plastic Cup or Liner
  • Ceramic Ball and Ceramic Liner
  • Ceramic Ball and Metal Socket

Continually, there are also multiple treatment options that specific implants are used to fix a problem. The three hip replacement procedures are total hip replacement, partial hip replacement and hip resurfacing. A total hip replacement is uses an artificial joint to replace the entire hip structure. Partial hip replacements are only recommended when one part of a hip needs treatment. Hip resurfacing is performed to avoid bone loss. It replaces the socket with an artificial cup and resurfaces the head of the femur instead of removing it compared to the previous surgeries [2].

The Problem with Mom

No, we aren’t talking about your mother, but rather the metal-on-metal hip implants that have been subject to scrutiny because of its complications. One of the complications that is truly the most significant is the fact that metal ions can rub off the devices and enter a recipient’s bloodstream, creating a metal poisoning known as metallosis.

Metallosis is an adverse tissue reaction to the metal debris generated by the prosthesis and can be seen with implants and joint prostheses. The reasons patients develop metallosis are multifactorial, involving patient, surgical and implant factors. These factors may include component malposition, edge loading, impingement, third-body particles, and sensitivity to cobalt. The diagnosis is confirmed by an aspiration of dark or cloudy fluid from the effusion surrounding the hip joint or by laboratory testing indicating a highly elevated serum cobalt level.

Metallosis can develop in a hip with ideal surgical technique and component placement; conversely, some patients with implants placed with less than ideal surgical technique will not develop this complication. However, bone loss and tissue necrosis can develop if metallosis is untreated and continues to progress. Surgery is the only effective treatment [3].

In fact, the FDA’s 510(k) Program classifies metal-on-metal hip systems are classified as Class III (higher risk) devices. This program allows companies to streamline devices or products without going through premarket testing or clinical trials before they are used in patients; manufacturers just have to state that their products are similar to other products already on the market. Even though the FDA does not require premarket testing of hip implants, device manufacturers are obligated to design and sell safe products, and warn consumers about any risks associated with their devices. Through no fault of their own, patients may have received a defective implant or one that has since been recalled. Several of the world’s largest hip implants manufacturers have been forced to recall come of their most popular products after early failure rates and other metal-on-metal complications.

Small and Large Companies

The product in Shirley’s lawsuit is produced by Wright Medical. This brand is smaller than other manufacturing companies but it produces hip replacement devices that are similar to DePuy’s ASR hip replacement systems that have been recalled since mid-2010. Not surprisingly, according to evidence presented at the first ASR trial in January 2013, DePuy knew at the time of the recall that the all-metal ASR device was expected to fail within five years in 40 percent of the patients. Continually, the company is facing an estimated 12,000 lawsuits from patients who received this defective product [2]. While Wright’s products have yet to be recalled, the similarities between the two devices leads to the possibility of complications that are also similar.

Other companies that produce hip replacements with continuous criticism include Stryker, Zimmer, Smith & Nephew and Biomet.

Dolman Law Group

Lawsuits that involve metal-on-metal hip replacements claim that the device’s defects makes the risk of failure much more probable, which in turn means that patients are more likely to need an additional surgery to remove and replace the implant. Furthermore, once a patients goes through hip replacement revision surgery, the likelihood of repeated surgeries due to mounted problems are quadrupled.

People who have filed these law suits claim that the manufacturers failed to adequately warn consumers and the medical community about the risks of using metal hip implant systems. Some, as stated earlier, claim that these companies knew of the defects and actively concealed information about those defects from the public and medical community. For example, DePuy had to settle out of court for about $2.5 billion for over $7,500 lawsuits.

If you or a loved one have experienced complications due to a metal-on-metal hip implant from Wright, DePuy or any other company, you may be eligible to file a hip implant suit. Suffering an injury due to a defective medical device allots the victim fair compensatory measures. Lawsuits against large and small manufacturers can be very complicated, however, and may require significant resources. These companies have large legal teams and insurance companies that work to help avoid liability for medical device injuries, so you always want to make sure you hire an attorney with experience handling this type of case.

At Dolman Law Group, we aggressively stand up for the rights of injured victims against large corporations who sell dangerous medical devices. We offer free consultations with no obligation, so please do not hesitate to contact our office today at (727) 853-6275 for assistance.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275