DePuy Hip Failure Lawsuits
Over the last ten years, Metal-on-Metal (MoM) hip replacements have become more and more common. According to the Nationwide Inpatient Sample database, more than 39,000 of the 112,000 primary total hip replacements in the US used metal on metal implants.
Unfortunately, recent evidence has shown that these MoM implants not only have a higher failure rate than implants made from other materials, but can also cause heavy metal poisoning.
Stryker’s hip replacement implants weren’t the first implants to have complications with their metallic components. Other implants featuring metal on metal technology have had similar issues in the past, most notably DePuy’s ASR XL Acetabular System and Hip Resurfacing System.
12% of Patients Need Revision Surgery
DePuy’s ASR hip replacement implants were first released in 2005. Between 2005 and 2008, more than 400 patients filed complaints with the FDA against DePuy. In 2010, DePuy’s parent company Johnson & Johnson released a statement acknowledging that roughly 12% of patients had to get revision surgery, a number far higher than the industry average.
DePuy Orthopedics phased out sales of their ASR implants in early 2010, citing “declining sales” rather than medical issues. DePuy didn’t post their recall until August 2010, when a damaging report on metal on metal hip replacements was published. Many medical experts condemned DePuy for not issuing the recall sooner.
Groundbreaking Study from the University of Bristol relating to premature failure rates
The study that prompted the DePuy recall and started this whole line of questioning was first published in March of 2012. The study was funded by the National Joint Registry of England and Wales and conducted at the University of Bristol. In it, researchers used data from 2003 and 2011 from nearly half a million patients.
Researchers found that MoM joint implants had a failure rate triple that of non-metallic implants of a similar nature. Since the study, numerous other medical publications, including the Australian Orthopedic Associations National Joint Registry and the Orthopedics Journal and even the United States Food and Drug Administration have come out and openly spoken against metal on metal hip replacements.
Chromium and Cobalt Poisoning
The core of the issue comes down to chromium and cobalt poisoning. Chromium and cobalt are two of the elements in the metals that contact in MoM joints. Though originally selected for their strength and anti-corrosive properties, they’ve proved less resilient than first assumed. Through everyday movement, the metals in the implant grind on each other and cause metallic debris and ions to release into the surrounding issue the the eventually circulated throughout the entire body.
The surrounding tissue then absorbs these metallic compounds. This can cause swelling and discomfort in the immediate area, as well as more serious long term consequences. The metals aren’t just stored in the surrounding area, but get absorbed into the rest of the body. They can find their way into the bloodstream, into bones, into the nerve system and into the body’s organs.
Unfortunately, there is no cure or antidote for heavy metal poisoning. Follow up surgery can remove the surrounding tissue and replace the implant, but metals that were absorbed by the body have to be removed by the body’s own immune system. The process is slow and in many cases the metals never leave the body completely.
Patients suffering from heavy metal poisoning often have to be monitored and medically managed for the rest of their lives.
Common Symptoms of Heavy Metal Poisoning
Symptoms from heavy metal poisoning include:
- Kidney failure
- Thyroid issues
- Internal bleeding and hemorrhages.
- Cloudy vision or damaged optical nerves
- Hearing problems
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Liver problems
Lawsuit History For Recalled Metal Hips
The first lawsuit against DePuy was filed on June 15, 2010. Since then, almost 4,000 similar lawsuits against DePuy have been filed for their ASR series, plus another 1,100 for their Pinnacle implants. On January 26, 2011, Judge Katz filed an order for multidistrict litigation. Johnson and Johnson has set aside $3 billion dollars to cover the costs of litigation and settlements.
The first Pinnacle class action trial is for the DePuy Pinnacle implants is set to begin September 2014.