A prominent professor in the U.K. is warning that metal-on-metal hip implants are ruining people’s lives. Tom Joyce, a Professor of Orthopaedic Engineering at Newcastle University, recently told The Telegraph that he has seen hundreds of cases where metal-on-metal hip replacements failed, forcing patients to undergo painful revisions surgeries.

“Often, especially with these metal-on-metal hips, they have been in pain, there’s been swelling. I’ve even had some cases where adults have ended up back at home with their (elderly) parents looking after them,” Joyce said.

A number of studies have shown that metal-on-metal hip implants, in which the ball and cup are made from a cobalt-chromium alloy, can shed dangerous amounts of metal ions into the tissue surrounding the joint. This can result in an adverse local tissue reaction known as metallosis, which can cause the device to become loose, and result in tissue death and bone loss. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), there have also been some reports of patients in which high levels of metal ions in the bloodstream may have caused other types of symptoms or illnesses elsewhere in the body, including effects on the heart, nervous system, and thyroid gland.

Since August 2010, when DePuy Orthopaedics recalled its ASR XL Acetabular and ASR Hip Resurfacing hip devices, regulators in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia have advised patients with metal-on-metal hip implants to undergo regular monitoring, including imaging scans and blood tests, to ensure their devices are working properly.

The DePuy ASR hip implant is now the subject of hundreds of product liability lawsuits in the U.S., as is a metal-on-metal version of DePuy’s Pinnacle hip replacement system. Other metal-on-metal hip implant lawsuits involve the Biomet M2a Magnum hip implant, as well as Wright Profemur and Conserve metal hip implants.

While the above implants are causing problems due to wear of the metal ball and cup, Joyce told The Telegraph that dangerous amounts of metal ions can also be shed from the area where the head fits on the taper of the long stem (the piece of metal which is fixed to the leg). In July 2006, Stryker recalled its Rejuvenate and AGB II Modular Hip Stems because of this problem. According to the Stryker hip recall notice, fretting and corrosion at the modular-neck junction could cause patients to develop adverse local tissue reactions that could manifest with symptoms of pain and/or swelling. A number of Stryker Rejuvenate lawsuits are now pending in New Jersey Superior Court.

Published October 25, 2012 by