British health regulators, following a recent British Medical Journal (“BMJ”) and BBC Newsnight investigation, announced that patients who received large-head metal-on-metal hip replacements should be monitored annually as long as the metal-on-metal hips remain implanted. Patients are urged to check for signs of metallosis, or metal poisoning, from the metal-on-metal hips’ wear. The friction between the hips’ ball and cup may release high levels of toxic cobalt and chromium ions into the tissue and bloodstream, destroying muscle and bone. A consultant surgeon at the University Hospital of North Tees told BMJ/Newsnight, “We are seeing patients with 10, 20, 50 times normal levels. I think our highest level is nearly 300.” Previously, British health agencies recommended monitoring patients for five years after the operation. Almost 50,000 British patients with metal-on-metal hips are at high risk and now face lifelong checkups to ensure detection of metallosis. Although this advisory only affects British citizens, hundreds of thousands of patients around the world may have been exposed to metallosis from metal-on-metal hips.

Australian health regulation agencies are considering following the British agency’s advice. 5,500 patients in Australia were fitted with DePuy ASR metal-on-metal hips, and about 1,000 have joined one of two class action lawsuits seeking compensation for damages.

DePuy ASR Metal-On-Metal Hips Subject Of Worldwide Recall

In the last decade, half a million patients in the U.S. received metal-on-metal hips, many of those are the dangerous large-head hip implants the British advisory warned against. In fact, thousands experienced hip replacement failure and required revision surgery. In August 2010, DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, issued a worldwide hip implant recall of its metal-on-metal ASR hip systems. According to the National Joint Registry of England and Wales, the ASR Acetabular hip replacement system had a 29 percent failure rate after six years, compared to a 9.5 percent failure rate for all metal-on-metal hips. Another DePuy metal-on-metal hip system, sold under the Pinnacle brand, has not been recalled, but also faces complaints from patients who experienced similar complications, including metallosis.

Metal-On-Metal Hip Lawsuits Mount As Metallosis Incidences Increase

Bloomberg News recently stated that the alarming consequences of metallosis in metal-on-metal hips may be a bigger concern than the recent leaking breast implants from France. In December 2011, French and German officials recommended that that thousands of women should have surgery to remove breast implants manufactured by Poly Implants Protheses SA, because the implants leaked industrial silicone inside patients. But the widespread impact and dangers of metal-on-metal hips has created a new crisis. Nick Freemantle, a professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at University College London questioned the regulation process for these devices: “Why is it that people are afforded different levels of protection depending on whether they have a heart attack, diabetes, or a hip replacement in their old age? The methods of device regulation seem to be more from the 1950s than the 21st century.”

DePuy Executives Had Early Knowledge of Dangers of Metallosis

The BMJ/Newsnight report also revealed that DePuy knew that metal-on-metal hips might cause metallosis as early as 2005, yet the Company continued to manufacture and market the devices without proper testing. One internal memo even revealed that the metal-on-metal hips could cause cancer. According to the report, one memo read: “In addition to inducing potential changes in immune function, there has been concern for some time that wear debris may be carcinogenic.” Internal emails to top executives in 2010 also show that DePuy had knowledge of ASR hip replacement problems. Health regulators across the world should have “prevented a whole class of failing hip implant[s] from being used in hundreds of thousands of people globally,” the report stated.

Contact A Hip Replacement Lawyer

If you’ve experienced symptoms of metallosis or other hip replacement complications as a result of DePuy metal-on-metal hips, contact a Bernstein Liebhard LLP hip replacement lawyer today. Our team of qualified lawyers has recovered billions for our clients, and may be able to help you collect compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and more. Contact a lawyer today for a free and confidential case evaluation.

Published March 1, 2012 by