Hip replacement patients at risk from faulty implants

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Hip replacement patients at risk from faulty implants

29th February 2012

Thousands of patients with all-metal hip replacements will need annual blood checks following revelations that they could be at risk of harm from toxic metal fragments entering their bodies.

Vijay Mehan, a defective products  expert at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said nearly 50,000 people with all-metal hip replacements are deemed to be at risk.

“Metal-on-metal hip implants are known to have a high failure rate and it is widely accepted that when the ball and cup joints rub together over time, there is a danger of minute metal particles breaking off and seeping into surrounding tissue, causing muscle and bone to be destroyed and inflammation,” said Vijay, a partner at the firm.

“We are currently acting for a number of clients who have been fitted with potentially faulty products, and what is particularly concerning is these faults have been recognised for some time now and that many patients have been kept in the dark.

“As a precautionary measure, it is important that metal-on-metal implant patients receive blood tests and in some cases MRI scans, in the event their blood is found to contain high levels of metal ions.”

In a BBC Newsnight programme aired this week, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) alleged that hundreds of thousands of people around the world have been exposed to dangerously high levels of toxic metals in their bodies as a direct result of the introduction of metal-on-metal implants.

One particular all-metal hip product known as the ASR, manufactured by DePuy, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, was banned in 2010 by The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) after it became clear the device caused problems and needed replacing much sooner than others.

Concerns regarding metal-on-metal hip implants were first voiced in 2008 when surgeons began noticing patients with swellings around the hip area. From 2010, the MHRA advised that all patients with metal-on-metal implants should have annual tests to determine the level of metal ions in their blood.

“Particular concern has been focused on all-metal hips made of cobalt and chromium following a small number of cases where, it is claimed, the toxic metals seeped into patient’s lymph nodes, liver and kidneys before exiting the body in urine,” said Vijay.

This week the MHRA announced that patients with metal-on-metal hip replacements using a metal ball and socket under 36mm in diameter were not at risk and would not need blood tests unless they had symptoms. However, those with implants using metal balls larger than 36mm in diameter would need their blood tested annually for the lifespan of their implants.

“Both manufacturers and regulators have known for some time that some metal-on-metal hip replacement devices can affect patient’s immune systems and increase the risk of cancer,” said Vijay. “Yet alarmingly, they have failed to prevent hundreds of thousands of people around the world from being fitted with products known to cause risk.

“It is important that anyone who thinks they may have been fitted with a particular metal-on-metal hip replacement to consult their GP for advice.”

How can Fentons help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of accidents and injury caused by defective products.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Read more: BBC