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British Doctor Group Says Large Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants Should be Avoided

Mar 6, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

A prominent group of doctors in the United Kingdom (UK) has called for an end to the use of certain metal-on-metal hip implants, due to their high rate of early failures.   According to the British Hip Society, "stemmed, large diameter metal-on-metal primary total hip replacements using bearings of 36 mm or above should no longer be performed until more evidence is available."

The statement was issued last week, during the British Hip Society's annual meeting in Manchester, England. The Society also endorsed guidance issued last month by the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) advising that patients with large diameter metal-on-metal hip implants should have annual blood tests and possibly MRI scans for the lifespan of the joint.

Concerns have been growing for some time hat metal-on-metal hip implants could cause serious tissue and bone damage when the wearing of their components shed microscopic shards of metal debris in patients.  There are also worries that these metal ions, should they leach into patients' blood streams,  could cause systemic toxicity that could put the nervous system, heart and lungs at risk of being slowly poisoned.

In August 2010, Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopedics division recalled two all-metal hip implants, the ASR Hip Resurfacing System and ASR Acetabular System. The recall was issued after data from the National Joint Registry of England and Wales showed that 1 out of every 8 patients (12%-13%) who had received the devices had to undergo revision surgery within five years of receiving it. 

The DePuy ASR hip implant devices have since been named in hundreds of lawsuits.  So has an all-metal version of DePuy's Pinnacle hip implant device, which plaintiffs allege has a design similar to the recalled ASR hip replacement devices.

Just last week, a report published by the British Medical Journal revealed that metal-on-metal hip implant manufacturers, including DePuy, were aware of mounting evidence linking the  devices to serious, long-term health consequences, but for years failed to warn the public about these dangers. 

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