Johnson & Johnson/DePuy Orthopaedics’ ASR Hip Resurfacing System and ASR XL Acetabular System were recalled by the manufacturers in August 2010, because of mounting evidence that the devices have higher-than-expected early failure rates. The devices, intended to last around fifteen years, have a 12-13 percent failure rate within the first few years of implantation. This failure rate is roughly double the industry average. Some surgeons believe that the ASR hip implant has a basic design flaw that makes it difficult to implant.

Grevious side effects

The result of a defective hip implant has been pain, suffering, and additional surgery for many recipients. The ASR units are in a class of hip replacement products known as metal-on-metal implants, a technology only about ten years old. This type of implants were used in about one third of the approximately 250,000 hip replacement procedures performed annually in the U.S., according to the New York Times. Metal-on-metal implants became popular because they were believed to be superior to earlier implant devices that relied on other materials such as ceramics and plastics. These metal-on-metal replacement hips replace the bone “ball-and-socket” found in a natural hip with parts made of metals such as cobalt and chromium.

Recipients of ASR devices specifically are injured when the hip replacement units begin to deteriorate prematurely. As they do, they can release flecks of toxic metal debris into the surrounding tissues and bloodstream, causing inflammatory reactions (characterized by swelling and tumors) along with pain in the groin, death of tissue in the hip joint, and loss of surrounding bone. Some devices even come loose and fail completely. When this happens, the bone around the implant can fracture.

Revision more likely

Replacement hips devices much more often need “revision” due to dislocation than because of issues caused by metallic debris, but surgeons report that when metal particles are present, a procedure to replace an implant can be much more involved and can leave patients with more serious complications.

Only by receiving a complete medical diagnosis can you be sure that you are not in danger. This might include returning for an annual evaluation to make sure any ASR device you’ve had implanted continues to function safely. During your initial doctor’s visit, you can expect to have a blood test to measure the level of microscopic metal pieces surrounding your hip. If you have elevated metal particle levels, this could be an indication that your ASR hip is failing.

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Published November 17, 2011 by