Pain Pumps Can Cause Cartilage Damage

posted on:
November 15, 2007


Dr. Charles Beck, a well-respected orthopedic surgeon, recently issued a warning that a commonly used device designed to reduce pain after surgery is potentially dangerous when used in the shoulder joint space. The devices, manufactured by Stryker Corporation, I-Flow Inc. and other companies, deliver high concentrations of pain medication directly to a surgical site. According to the recently published article co-authored by Dr. Beck, they can cause permanent and debilitating damage to the shoulder. In discussing the matter, Dr. Beck stated:

These devices have been used on thousands of patients nationwide, and based on our findings, hundreds appear to be at risk for this complication which results in severe pain, debilitating stiffness and eventual joint replacement surgery for many of those affected. We sent the results of our study to the manufacturers more than two years ago, but their response has so far been minimal to non-existent. It is time to get the word out and stop these devices from ruining any more lives.

Dr. Beck’s warning comes at an appropriate time now that football season is in full swing. Manufacturers report that the number of orthopedic surgeries rise sin the fourth quarter of each year tied to increased sports activity, particularly football and skiing. It appears that patients may tend to defer elective surgeries until the fourth quarter after annual insurance deductibles are satisfied.

The article, published in the October 2007 issue of The American Journal of Sports Medicine, demonstrates a strong association between the intra-articular (inside the joint space) use of high volume pain pumps following arthroscopic shoulder surgery and an otherwise unexplainable loss of hyaline cartilage in the shoulder joint. Dr. Brent Hansen, an orthopedic surgeon, was the senior author of the study. The complication discussed in the article, known as Postarthroscopic Glenohumeral Chondrolysis (PAGCL), is permanent and can lead to extreme pain and lifelong suffering in 63% of the patients that use the pain pumps. It is suggested that the complications may occur following open surgery as well.

Numerous lawsuits are pending against the companies that manufacture, market, or distribute the pain pumps, including Stryker, DJO Inc., I-Flow Inc., BREG Inc. and others. Included among the many claims in the lawsuits are the allegations that the manufacturers failed to instruct or warn the U.S. medical community that the safety of using the pain pumps in the shoulder joint space had not been established or that the continuous injections of commonly used anesthetics may cause permanent injury.

Our firm is looking into a number of claims from people across the country whose lives have been devastated by these pain pumps. These are supposed to be routine outpatient procedures, but the patients often endure several more surgeries, and most will eventually need complete shoulder replacement. We expect hundreds of individuals across the country to come forward with their own stories of ongoing pain and suffering they have experienced after using one of these devices. Ted Meadows, who is in our Mass Torts Section, is heading up a team that is investigating cases that include the use of pain pumps, not only in the shoulder, but in the knee, ankle and hip. If you need additional information relating to this matter, you can contact Ted Meadows at (334) 269-2343.

Source: Associated Press


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