Are Metal on Metal Hip Replacements Safe?

For decades, orthopedic surgeons have been implanting metal-on-metal hip devices into their patients. Many of those patients now have cause to regret the procedure. They were potentially exposed to highly toxic substances. Several large manufacturers have been forced to recall their metal-on-metal hip replacements in the past ten years.

Scientists have been documenting the risks of the devices for decades. Yet, their warnings weren’t enough to protect patients until many people had suffered. There are hundreds of thousands of people across the globe currently walking around with metal-on-metal hip implants.

Recalled devices include:

  • Depuy ASR Acetabular & Resurfacing System
  • Smith & Nephew R3 Acetabular, Modular SMF, Modular Redapt Femoral Hip Systems
  • Zimmer Durom Acetabular Component

Flawed hip implants have sparked thousands of lawsuits across the country. Patients allege that companies knew about the risks associated with their devices but failed to convey that information.

Hip replacement dangers shouldn’t be ignored. All implant devices carry risks, although some are far more problematic than others.

Who Needs Hip Replacement Surgery?

If you think that your hip needs to be replaced, it’s time to talk to your orthopedic surgeon. There’s no exact moment when you’ll be sure you that you need surgery. However, once your pain starts interfering with your daily life, it’s a good idea to start thinking about your options.

The first line of defense is physical therapy. Adopting a healthier diet and exercise routine can also help some people. Surgery should only be considered when every option has failed. A hip replacement is a major procedure.

You may not be a good candidate if your bone is too weak to adequately support the hip implant. Your surgeon may also have reservations about operating on you if you have an infection or too much bone loss.

Around 300,000 Americans have hip replacements every year.

Signs you need a hip replacement include:

  • You’re constantly in pain
  • Your mobility has suffered
  • Your hip aches
  • You have trouble climbing stairs
  • It’s hard to get out of chairs
  • Your hip is swollen
  • Pain medication doesn’t help

Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants

Hip implants are usually comprised of a ball and a socket. In metal-on-metal devices, both of these components are made of metal. Medical researchers believed that metal implants would be more durable than ones made of ceramic or plastic.

Unfortunately, when metal-on-metal implants were introduced, the risks associated with corrosion were seriously underestimated. Recent studies show that the devices leach dangerous amount of metal ions into patients’ bloodstreams. This can trigger a host of different reactions, including a condition known as metallosis, or metal poisoning.

For instance, the DuPuy metal-on-metal implant, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, was recalled eight years ago because it produced a large amount of metal debris. The device had a very high failure rate.

What if You Already Have a Metal-on-Metal Implant?

U.S. surgeons have partly turned away from all-metal implants. They’re no longer used for total hip replacements but they’re occasionally still utilized in hip resurfacing procedures. However, many patients have already received the implant.

It’s important to note that having a metal-on-metal implant doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have problems with it. The devices function exactly as they’re supposed to for most people.

“Some patients may react to the metal debris and demonstrate this issue; others probably do not… [But] there are many patients who have had a successful result for 15 years and counting,” explained Edwin Su, MD, a hip and knee surgeon in New York City.

If you have an all-metal hip implant, don’t panic. There’s a good chance that you won’t experience any of the negative side effects. However, most doctors recommend that you visit your orthopedic surgeon at least once a year for checkups.  

Keep an eye out for signs that something is going wrong. One of the easiest symptoms to notice is pain or inflammation around your hip joint. Stray metal ions can wreak a lot of havoc on your body, so you should also pay attention to your overall health.

Stay Informed

Research into metal-on-metal hip implants is still ongoing. If you have this type of implant, you need to stay on top of the news even if you’re not experiencing any problems. There might be another recall that you need to know about or you may develop symptoms later.

It would also be a good idea to follow some of the lawsuits filed against metal-on-metal implant manufacturers. If you experience trouble with your implant, you might decide to become a plaintiff.