Metal-on-metal hip implant problems faced overseas, too

As is the case in the U.S., tens of thousands of recipients of metal-on-metal hip implants in the U.K. are experiencing the same painful and costly defects that have plagued the devices on the whole.

In a recent report from The Telegraph (U.K.), more than 60,000 Britons and others have been implanted with a likely faulty metal-on-metal hip joint in the last decade. For many of these recipients, it’s been a decade marked by persistent pain, countless trips to the physician or surgeon, skyrocketing medical bills, and in some cases, disablement.

Comments made to the foreign media source, as part of its investigation into the growing number of metal-on-metal hip implant complaints, echo many of those already weighed against the devices in the U.S. There, people describe a fear that they’d never be able to walk again because of the problems caused by the defective hip implants, pain building to intolerable levels. Further, others describe the pain and question marks that worried them until they finally realized they were victims of metallosis, a common side effect of metal-on-metal hip implants that can have disastrous results, including tissue and organ damage, and possibly tumor growths.

Earlier this year, people living in the U.K. were notified by health officials that metal-on-metal hip implants were, on the whole, dangerous and surgeons were urged to no longer use them in performing total hip replacements. This action went against a decade’s worth of thinking that metal-on-metal hip implants had been a revolution in the prosthetic hip implant market.

Metal-on-metal hip implants were designed with a younger recipient in mind. They were supposed to last longer and require less revision and replacement surgeries over the life of the implant. And the all-metal design was touted for a younger, more active recipient, like many people still in their 50s and 60s who often weren’t ideal candidates for a total hip replacement surgery in the past.

Soon, the market was flooded with various models of metal-on-metal hip implants and tens of thousands of people around the world received them in surgeries to correct nagging hip problems. Unfortunately, many of these all-metal hip implants were passed through regulatory controls that did not require much, if any, pre-market safety testing, essentially turning initial recipients of the devices into a test group.

Within months, a person who receives a metal-on-metal hip implant may expect to experience trouble with the devices. Popping and creaking from the site of the implant are common complications. One person told The Telegraph in its investigation that the noise emanating from his hip was embarrassing and people walking by on the street could hear it. Additionally, the noise accompanied pain.

In general, a poorly functioning hip implant will cause a recipient a great deal of pain, impairing their ability to walk normally and sometimes debilitating them. This often requires revision surgeries to correct the problems, or a full replacement procedure to remove a faulty all-metal hip implant. These procedures less a person’s chances of regaining full mobility again and are followed by more, costly, and painful physical therapy to regain their ability to walk.

These are just a few scenarios in which a recipient of these implants could find themselves back on the surgeon’s table for a revision procedure. For others, complications can be even more serious. Rashes and infections are a telltale sign of metal poisoning, the result of the all-metal components of the implants rubbing together, dispersing small fragments of cobalt and chromium into a recipient’s body and bloodstream. Many people who suffer from metallosis as a result of their faulty hip must have them replaced entirely.

In the U.S., thousands of people have joined lawsuits against the makers of many metal-on-metal hip implants, many claiming that the companies should have been aware of these glaring errors with their devices before they were allowed to market them to the public. Many of the lawsuits were filed following the 2010 recall of the DePuy Orthopaedics ASR line of metal-on-metal hip implants due to all the aforementioned defects. The device had been implanted in thousands 0f people prior to the recall.

Since that notice, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has required that makers of all-metal hip implants currently on the market to conduct full safety testing on their devices to determine who is most at risk of suffering these complications and if the implant is safe or more effective than others at all.

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