It’s a fact of life: as we age, our bodies become less agile and aches and pains start to show up, sometimes leading to major changes in our quality of life. Activities once enjoyed become physically painful. Maybe because of injury, but often because of age-related conditions such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, our joints stop functioning as they once did and replacement surgery is suddenly on the table. Hip replacement surgery is one of the most common types of joint replacement procedures. Nearly 290,000 individuals each year undergo some type of hip replacement procedure, trying to restore their active lifestyles.
For such an invasive procedure that has a long recovery period patients hope it is a once-in-a-lifetime necessity. That’s why recalls like the DePuy hip implant system recalls are so scary. In August of 2010, DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, issued a global recall of two of its hip implant devices. (Information from DePuy about the recall is available here.) The recall included the ASR XL Acetabular System, which is used in total hip replacements, and the ASR Hip Resurfacing System, which is used in a procedure aimed at repairing—but not replacing—damaged hip joints.
The primary reason for the recall was an unacceptably high failure rate of the implant devices. Nearly 1 in 8 recipients of a DePuy product—or 12%—needed a second, corrective surgery within five years of receiving the implant. That rate of failure is nearly twice the industry average. Before the recall was issued, nearly 100,000 patients had received one of these two products and now face an increased risk of having to undergo a much more complicated revision surgery if their implant fails.
In the wake of this recall, literally hundreds of lawsuits across the country have been filed against DePuy. And as that litigation moves forward, additional issues are being discovered. One of those issues—that has caught significant attention in the news—is the risk that metal-on-metal implants in general pose. The DePuy products are metal-on-metal, meaning the both components that mimic the ball and socket joint of the hip are made of metal. The design idea was that using metal components would increase range of moment and be more durable and long-lasting than traditional materials. But the research has been showing that metal-on-metal devices instead pose serious risks. The friction between the metal components means that small amounts of metal are constantly released into the blood stream, which can cause severe reactions in patients. This too can lead to revision surgeries, or at the very least, life-long monitoring for adverse effects.
Suffice it to say that the DePuy hip systems have been a nightmare for many patients. If you are a recipient of one of these devices, talk to your physician and your surgeon to learn about any concerns that may need to be addressed or issues that you need to be aware of. And if you have already suffered the negative effects of the faulty product, you may have legal recourse.