Patients implanted with metal-on-metal hips around the globe are worried about the problems that their device may cause including metal toxicity. All metal hip implants were touted as being more durable and suitable for active patients when they first hit the market, but they have come under intense scrutiny in recent years due to high-profile recalls, thousands of personal injury lawsuits and mounting injury reports. The hips are supposed to last 10 to 15 years but many have failed much sooner.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that hundreds of Australians with metal hip implants are worried that their hips are leaching cobalt and chromium particles into their bodies. Many report similar symptoms, including nausea, vertigo, headaches, heart problems and more. These patients have joined class action lawsuit underway in Federal Court. The suit is filed against Johnson & Johnson over it’s DePuy ASR hip implant, which was recalled in August 2010 due to a high rate of failure. Many other patients with other brands of all-metal hip implants have complained of the same issues, although they are not involved in this litigation.
Traditional total hip replacements are made with ceramic and plastic. Metal-on-metal devices were marketed as an improved device, but they have come under fire in light of safety concerns. Metal hips can cause a host of issues if the surfaces of the implant rub or grind together, releasing metal particles into the bloodstream.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports on the story of Di Harvey, a former nurse who was implanted with a Birmingham Hip Resurfacing system in 2003. In 2010, she went to see an orthopedic surgeon for back pain. She had been suffering from the pain for years; it had been attributed to a “pinched nerve”. The surgeon, however, told Harvey her pain was transferred pain from her hip implant. The metal hip failed and needed to be replaced through a “revision” surgery. Harvey was implanted with a ceramic device but her problems continued..Her right hip caused her to favor the left leg, causing knee pain; she later received a knee implant as well.
Harvey’s following symptoms were worrisome. “I developed a hacking cough,” she said. “I got very sick, began vomiting bile every day. I had heart palpitations. I felt if I over-exerted myself I would drop dead.” She researched her symptoms further and learned about the growing concern of metal poisoning with metal hips. In June 2011, the Medical Journal of Australia published an article stating that it was an “emerging clinical problem”. The authors wrote that the metal devices released “a variety of metal ions into local tissue and [into] the general circulation…” and higher levels of cobalt were linked to hand tremors, depression, vertigo, hearing loss and heart problems.
“I have got rid of my BHR hip, but I have been told that once the cobalt and chromium get into your body the damage has been done.” Harvey says.