What are hip replacements?
Hip replacements are a surgical procedure that replaces a hip joint that has been damaged by arthritis, a fracture, or other condition that makes common activities such as walking or getting in and out of a chair painful or difficult. People who do not experience relief with medications or walking supports may be candidates for a hip replacement.
The first hip replacement was performed in 1960. Since then, surgery has become one of the most successful operations in medicine, enabling many people to resume regular activities.
Through the years, improved surgical techniques and medical technology have made implants more effective. More than 300,000 hip replacement surgeries are performed each year in the United States.
Why are hip replacements needed?
The hip joint is one of the largest in the body and involves a ball-and-socket type joint. The ball is the femoral head or upper end of the femur (thighbone). The socket is the part of the large pelvis bone called the acetabulum.
The bone surface of the ball and socket are covered with slick cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones and allows them to move easily. A thin tissue called a synovial membrane surrounds the hip joint that lubricates the cartilage and prevents friction when the hip moves. Ligaments connect the ball to the socket and provide stability to the joint.
Pain and stiffness in the hip joint can occur when the cartridge cushioning the hipbones wears down due to wear-and-tear or inflammation, or if there is an inadequate blood supply to the ball portion of the hip joint, causing it to collapse and deform.
What happens during hip replacement surgery?
During total hip replacement surgery, the damaged bone and cartilage are removed and replaced with prosthetic components. The femoral head is replaced with a metal stem, and a metal or ceramic ball is placed on the upper part of the stem. The damaged cartilage on the surface of the socket is removed and replaced with a metal socket. Then a plastic, ceramic, or metal spacer is inserted between the new ball and the socket to allow for a smooth gliding surface.
What are metal-on-metal hip replacements?
Some older artificial hips used during hip replacements use a metal cup liner designed to be more durable than cup liners made with other materials.
However, many metal-on-metal hip implants have failed prematurely – often within five years of implantation. These defective hip replacements have also been shown to release metal ions into the bloodstream; a condition called metallosis, which causes inflammation and bone erosion. Because of these serious health risks, metal-on-metal hip implants are considered defective hip implants and are now rarely used.
Physicians advise people who have undergone hip replacements and have, or think they have, a metal-on-metal implant to contact their orthopedic surgeon even if the joint appears to be functioning well to rule out metallosis.
Hip Implant Risks
Hip implants typically last up to 20 years or longer, after which some patients may require a second hip replacement due to wear and tear. In some cases, defective hip implants can and fail prematurely, requiring revision surgery to remove and replace the device. People with hip implants who do not experience improvement or experience new symptoms after surgery should consult with their orthopedic surgeon.
Hip Implant Risks associated with hip replacement surgery include:
- Blood clots in the legs can break free and travel to the lungs, heart, or in rare cases, the brain. Blood thinners are often prescribed to reduce this risk.
- Infections at the incision site and deep tissue near the new hip. Most infections can be treated with antibiotics, but more serious ones may require revision surgery.
- The fracturing of bone may require treatment with pins, a metal plate, or bone grafts.
- Dislocating in the hip joint. This most often occurs during the first few months after surgery.
- Loosening of the implant, which may require surgery.
- Metallosis (metal-on-metal prostheses)
Hip Implant Recovery
Following a hip replacement, patients should reduce pain felt before surgery and an increase in range of motion. Most patients can resume normal activities six to 12 weeks after surgery. Strength will continue to improve over the next six to 12 months.
Signs of a Defective Hip Replacement
A defective hip replacement can fail within five years or less. Signs of metal-on-metal hip implant failure include:
- Pain, particularly in the hip or pelvic area, during everyday activities.
- Squeaking, popping, or clicking sound coming from the hip.
- Difficulty walking or putting weight on your hip.
Defective Hip Implant Recalls
Nearly 20% of all hip implants performed each year are revision surgeries often performed because the original implant was defective, according to the Consumer’s Union, the independent non-profit testing and information organization and publisher of Consumer Reports. In its research, the organization also found more than 578 recalls on hip replacements from six major manufacturers reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 2002 to 2013.
What is metallosis?
In December 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Safety Communication alerting the public about risks with metal-on-metal hip implants. The agency reported cases in which patients with these devices developed an allergic reaction and experienced other medical problems such as:
- General hypersensitivity reaction (skin rash)
- Cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle)
- Neurological changes including sensory changes (auditory or visual impairments)
- Psychological status change (including depression or cognitive impairment)
- Renal (kidney) function impairment
- Thyroid dysfunction (including neck discomfort, fatigue, weight gain, or feeling cold)
Patients with metal-on-metal hip implants who experience hip/groin pain, noise, difficulty walking, or a worsening of previous symptoms may have a defective hip replacement implant. They should see their orthopedic surgeon for further evaluation. Patients who experience new symptoms or medical conditions in their body other than at the hip should report them to their primary physician and remind them at that time that they also have a metal-on-metal hip implant.
Metal Hip Replacement Lawsuits
People have filed tens of thousands of defective hip replacement lawsuits, and since 2002, makers of hip implants have paid more than $7.5 billion to resolve hip implant lawsuits. Most of those lawsuits involve metal-on-metal hip implants manufactured by various medical device companies.
If a metal-on-metal hip replacement has injured you or a loved one, you may have a claim against the manufacturers. Please contact us today by filling out the brief questionnaire or calling our toll-free number (1-800-898-2034) for a free, no-cost, no-obligation evaluation of your case.
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