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Family Alleges Mother's Fatal Brain Cancer Due to DePuy ASR Metal-on-Metal Hip Implant

May 12, 2014

A woman from India was the first from her city to bring a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over its DePuy Orthopaedics ASR hip implant device, alleging it caused her aggressive brain cancer.

The woman, 72 years old at the time of her death, from Dadar, India, just died from aggressive brain cancer and her family indicated that they will continue her fight, according to The Times of India. She fell and required replacement hip surgery in 2007. Following the surgery, she was in pain daily, her daughter said, and was forced into retirement because of the pain.

Within five months of surgery, the device was emanating crackling sounds and the pain worsened, according to the woman’s daughter. The woman underwent revision surgery that was funded by DePuy in 2011, and she was re-implanted with a metal-on-ceramic device. The pain remained and in November 2013, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, wrote The Times of India.

The family indicated that the tumor came out of nowhere in a family without a history of cancer. They believe that it was the accumulation of cobalt and chromium that caused the cancer, The Times of India reported. Meanwhile, the DePuy ASR is made of both metals and, among other issues, many believe that the rubbing of the device’s components against one another during normal activities, such as walking, shed cobalt and chromium in the body.

In a prior report issued by The New York Times and based on reports of serious side effects that do not appear to be related to a typical diagnosis, cobalt poisoning may be due to metal-on-metal hip devices. One diagnosing physician compared his patient’s odd array of symptoms—low thyroid levels, esophageal inflammation, a fever with no origin, severe vision and hearing loss, and serious cardiac issues that weakened his heart so much that the organ could no longer sufficiently pump blood to his body—were attributed to cobalt poisoning blamed on a metal-on-metal hip.

Another case that appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine, discussed a Denver woman who suffered from a number of ailments that began when she fell ill while on vacation. “I was tired all the time,” she said. When she returned home, she found that she gained 10 pounds—significant given her 4-foot-10, 95-pound frame—according to The New York Times. She also suffered a swollen abdomen, arms, and legs and a CT scan revealed that fluid was accumulating around her heart. Although these symptoms are consistent with cardiomyopathy, she was not diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. “It was kind of a puzzle to my first cardiologist,” she said.

When her heart was failing in 2011, she went to a heart failure and transplant specialist. “We did a work-up looking at possible causes and even rare causes…. Nothing showed up.” She underwent a heart transplant in September 2011. Later, her orthopedist discovered, during routine blood testing, that her cobalt levels were more than 300 times greater than normal. One year later, both hip devices were replaced with polyethylene-lined devices and her cobalt level dropped, wrote The New York Times. Her physician and colleagues wrote that cobalt poisoning should be considered in people with metal-on-metal hip devices who present with symptoms consistent with the poisoning.

All-metal hips have been tied with high and premature failure rates and a number of alleged, adverse medical reactions, including increased blood metal ion levels and metal poisoning. Injury reports also allege dislocations; pain; fracture; difficulty ambulating, rising, standing, and balancing; noise emanating from the joint; and pseudotumors, to name just some. Patients have also alleged debris from the chromium and cobalt hip device have led to tissue death and increased blood metal ion levels, according to a prior report.

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