Product Liability

Metal on Metal Hip Implants: Benefits and Risks

Doctors recommend hip joint replacement — also known as arthroplasty — when these joints deteriorate to the point where physical therapy, exercise and medications are no longer adequate. One of the options for hip joint replacement is to use a metal-on-metal ball and socket. Two types of products are available: a resurfacing kit and a replacement socket.1

Metal-on-metal implants are part of the variety of products that are available. Hip replacements may also include polyethylene or ceramic.2

Benefits

Compared to other types of hip replacements, metal-on-metal implants are relatively durable, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They are also not very likely to dislocate. Implant failure rates are relatively low; secondary replacements are only required 10 percent of the time.3

Risks of Metal on Metal Hips

Because the implants are made of metal, corrosion and wear can occur. Small pieces of metal may detach from the implants and migrate elsewhere in the body. Metal particles may enter the bloodstream. Surgeons attempt to reduce the number of metal particles that will detach from the implants, but they cannot prevent this problem from occurring. Patients may experience adverse reactions to the metal debris.4

The surgery can also lead to symptoms elsewhere in the body. These may include:4

  • Skin rashes
  • Auditory or visual impairments
  • Depression or cognitive problems
  • Kidney function impairment
  • Thyroid problems (such as neck discomfort, fatigue, coldness or weight gain)
  • Chronic heart disease

Other reactions may also occur, such as:

  • Reactions to anesthesia
  • Heart attacks
  • Infections of the wound or joint
  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding
  • Dislocation
  • Bone fracture
  • Nerve damage
  • Device breakage or loosening
  • Bone loss
  • Leg length difference
  • Pain or swelling
  • Changes in walking ability
  • Joints making noises (such as popping, clicking, grinding or squeaking)

Other Risk factors

Male patients and younger patients are more likely to have their implants fail than female and older patients are. Part of this problem is due to physical work; men are more likely than women to have physically active jobs. Female patients who are under 55 years old and have rheumatoid arthritis are also likely to experience complications.5

A number of factors can increase the likelihood of infection, including:

  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Use of corticosteroids
  • Chronic kidney failure
  • Diabetes
  • Old age
  • Malnutrition

There is a low risk of dislocation (less than 5 percent). Some factors that make dislocation more likely include:5

  • Neck fractures
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Intellectual impairment
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Acetabular dysplasia

If you believe your surgeon has not informed you about the risks of metal-on-metal hip implants adequately or has not monitored the potential side effects, you may be interested in consulting a personal injury attorney for advice.

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