Metal-on-metal hip implants have come under intense scrutiny in recent years following high-profile recalls, thousands of personal injury lawsuits and numerous injury reports. The devices have affected numerous patients across the globe. Patients were told at the time of implantation that the hip replacements were expected to last 10 to 15 years but many have failed much sooner, leaving some to fear that they are implanted with a device bound to cause problems. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that hundreds of Australians with metal hip implants are concerned that their hips are releasing cobalt and chromium particles into their bodies; a number of patients have reported similar symptoms, including nausea, vertigo, headaches, heart problems and more.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the patients are part of a class action lawsuit underway in Federal Court. The suit is filed against Johnson & Johnson over its DePuy ASR hip implant, which was recalled in August 2010 due to a high rate of failure. There are many other patients with other brands of all-metal hip implants reporting the same issues, although they are not involved in this particular action.
Traditional total hip replacements are made with ceramic and plastic. When metal-on-metal devices were first introduced on the market, they were touted as being more durable and a better option for active individuals. However, the devices have come under fire due to safety concerns. Metal hip implants can cause a host of issues if the surfaces of the implant rub or grind together, leaching metal debris into the bloodstream.
The Sydney Morning Herald shares the story of Di Harvey, a former nurse who was implanted with a Birmingham Hip Resurfacing system in 2003. For years after her surgery she suffered from persistent back pain, which was thought to be caused by a “pinched nerve” The pain became so severe that Harvey sought help from an orthopedic surgeon in 2010. To her surprise, the surgeon said her pain was transferred pain from her hip implant. He informed her that the hip failed and needed to be replaced in a so-called “revision” surgery. Harvey received a ceramic device but the problems did not end there-she developed knee pain because the right hip had caused her to place more weight on the left leg, and received a knee implant as well.
Harvey’s following symptoms were perhaps even more concerning. “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 investigated 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 increased levels of cobalt were associated with 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.