Metal-on-Metal Hip Implant Study Reportedly Raises Cancer Worries

A new study may have found that people with metal-on-metal hip implants could face a higher risk of cancer. According to a report from The Telegraph, the British study reportedly found that one in five patients fitted with an all-metal hip implant experienced changes to cells in the bladder that could be precursors of cancer.

We’ve long reported on the problems associated with metal-on-metal hip implants. Last May, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) directed 21 makers of all-metal hip implants to conduct post-market studies of their products to determine if they were shedding dangerous amounts of metallic debris in patients. It is believed that metal-on-metal hip implants can shed dangerous amounts of cobalt and chromium through wear, leading to tissue damage, premature device failure, the need for revision surgery, and even long-term health problems.

The FDA’s order followed the August 2010 worldwide recall of DePuy Orthopaedics’ all-metal ASR Hip Resurfacing System and the DePuy ASR Acetabular System, after data from the National Joint Registry of England and Wales showed that 1 out of every 8 patients (12%-13%) who had received the devices had to undergo revision surgery within five years of receiving it. DePuy, a division of Johnson & Johnson, currently faces more than 3,500 U.S. lawsuits over its defective ASR hip implants. Another 900 lawsuits are pending in the U.S. over an all-metal version of its Pinnacle hip replacement device.

According to The Telegraph, the British metal-on-metal hip implant study was launched after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) warned people in the U.K. with all-metal devices to undergo annual checks, including scans and blood tests, if doctors find symptoms that suggest their hips are shedding unsafe levels of metal debris. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol, involved 72 patients, and found that 17 had sustained genetic damage to the bladder. Three were found to have full-blown cancer.

One of the study subjects who was found to have atypical cells told The Telegraph that he had expected the study findings to make “front page news,” but nine months later that hasn’t happened. A spokesperson for the University of Bristol said an analysis of the results from the trial was still ongoing. However, one orthopedist involved in the research told The Telegraph that he hoped the study findings would be presented next month, at the annual British Hip Society conference.

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