Amid Recalls, Questions Abound About Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently convened a special advisory panel to deal with the ongoing issues arising from a number of metal-on-metal hip replacement components. An 18-member panel comprised of physicians and medical experts from around the country met to discuss the unique complications arising from the implantation of a number of different replacement hip components manufactured and distributed by:

  • Johnson & Johnson/DePuy Orthopedics
  • Biomet
  • Wright Medical
  • Zimmer Holdings
  • Encore Medical
  • Smith & Nephew

More recently a recall has been issued for "modular neck and stem" components manufactured by the Stryker Corporation. Even though the Stryker implants are not technically "metal-on-metal," most consumers tend to lump them together with the other ones making the news for months now.

What Is Wrong With These Implants?

Metal-on-metal hip implants first hit the market in the early 2000s and were designed to be more durable and less prone to dislocation than traditional ceramic or plastic implants. Manufacturers and physicians recommended the metallic components because clinical trials had led them to believe the metal implants would last longer and would have less risk of dislocation than older models.

Unfortunately, the opposite was true. As the metal ball-and-socket parts of the implant rub against each other, they result in a condition known as "fretting." Fretting is the release of microscopic particles of metal ions like chromium, cobalt and others. A buildup of metal ions could result in chronic pain, inflammation, bone loss, tissue death and damage to organs as the ions circulate around the body.

What Actions Are Being Taken To Protect Consumers?

Following nearly 20,000 complaints of complications and injury associated with these metal-on-metal implants between 2000 and 2011, the FDA finally issued safety advisories for the devices. Several manufacturers subsequently issued their own recalls of the devices, but that action isn't necessarily good news to the estimated hundreds of thousands of patients around the world who currently have one of these potentially faulty implants in their bodies.

The FDA advisory panel recommends annual screening exams like X-rays and testing for metal particulates for patients who have one of the affected types of metal-on-metal hip implants in their bodies. It is possible that some of the defective devices will never cause the types of painful complications that have been reported around the country, but negative effects might necessitate the surgical removal of a faulty component and the implantation of a new one.

Many cases involving defective him implants have been filed nationwide against some of the largest medical device companies in the world. If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective metal-on-metal hip implant — or you have one of those devices implanted in your body and have questions — seek the counsel of a skilled personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.