Many medical conditions can cause problems with bones and joints, and patients sometimes need to have hip replacement surgery. Around 285,000 people have total hip replacement surgery in the United States annually, and advances in technology mean that success rates are now higher than ever. Unfortunately, some hip implants lead to serious injuries that can cause significant problems for patients. Learn more about one type of hip replacement, and find out why some people are filing personal injury lawsuits following this type of surgery.
Why people need hip replacement surgery
Hip complaints and injuries can cause serious ongoing pain and discomfort. If the problem grows worse, doctors will normally recommend some form of hip replacement surgery. One of the most common causes of hip replacement surgery is osteoarthritis, but bone tumors, osteonecrosis and trauma can all lead to a similar outcome.
Surgery isn't necessarily the only solution. Some people with these conditions benefit from physical therapy, walking aids, medication and joint supplements, but if these treatment options fail (or don't result in a significant improvement), a doctor will probably recommend surgery.
Approved types of hip replacement
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves five types of artificial hip implant. You and your doctor can choose from:
- Metal-on-Polyethylene – with a metal ball and a plastic socket
- Ceramic-on-Polyethylene – ceramic ball and plastic socket
- Metal-on-Metal – both parts are metal
- Ceramic-on-Ceramic – both parts are ceramic
- Ceramic-on-Metal – the ball is ceramic and the socket is metal
The right choice of implant type varies from one patient to another. Your doctor or surgeon will discuss the pros and cons of each device type with you before he or she recommends a solution. Your age, sex, weight, and current symptoms will all dictate which type of implant you have.
The FDA also warns patients about the general risks of hip replacement surgery. Patients may suffer from hip dislocation, infection, and nerve damage or bone loss. Some symptoms can also occur more than three months after the surgery. For example, a new hip implant may get rid of the pain, but you may start to limp or walk differently.
Problems with metal-on-metal hip implants
Surgeons recommend metal-on-metal hip implants for several reasons. Surgeons can precisely engineer the moving surfaces of metal-on-metal implants to make them extremely smooth. These implants generally experience lower wear rates than other types of implant and are less likely to dislocate. As such, patients with these implants generally experience fewer problems, and revision surgery is less likely than patients with other implant types.
Some brands of metal-on-metal hip implants have led to serious side effects. Studies and reported adverse events indicate that the two metal parts of the implant can rub together when patients move, releasing harmful metallic particles into the area around the joint. Doctors believe that metal ions (such as cobalt and chromium) leak into the bloodstream.
Doctors don't yet understand what effect these ions may have. Experts worry that metal particles around the implant may damage the bone and tissue around the joint, a condition that doctors call adverse local tissue reaction or ALTR. ALTR can cause pain, device failure and further problems with the implant. In time, patients with ALTR are also more likely to need revision surgery.
Health authorities around the world continue to investigate these issues. In the United States, the FDA urges patients and healthcare professionals to stay alert for any potential symptoms.
Why patients file personal injury lawsuits
In the United States, the FDA operates a strict approval process for all medical devices. Hip implant manufacturers must carry out tests to make sure the devices are safe, and the makers must also warn patients about any known side effects that can occur.
A number of people in the United States have filed personal injury lawsuits against hip implant manufacturers. These lawsuits allege that metal-on-metal implants were not fit for purpose and the makers did not carry out suitable tests. Furthermore, patients with metal-on-metal hip implants allege that the makers did not make clear the risks associated with their devices.
Personal injury or car accident attorney can help improve your chance of success. These lawsuits are complex, and it's easy to take action that can later jeopardize your chances of success. For example, some device makers offer a customer helpline for general advice about the implants. In some cases, the information that callers innocently give to the manufacturers can later hurt the chances of success during a lawsuit. As such, it's advisable to talk to your attorney as soon as you think you have suffered an implant injury.
Metal-on-metal hip implants improve the lives of many American people, but these devices can also cause serious injuries. If you or someone you love has a metal-on-metal hip implant injury, take legal advice as soon as possible.