Ask a Lawyer
by Pat Nelson
Nov 26, 2013 | 673 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Local attorneys, Pat Nelson, Bob Bryan and Allison Jones of Nelson Bryan and Jones, sponsor the weekly column “Ask a Lawyer”. Pat Nelson answers this week’s question.

I had hip replacement surgery about 4 years ago in Birmingham. A metal hip was put in and now I am hearing on TV that metal hips may be defective. What do I need to do? Vivian T., Jasper, AL

Hip replacements are usually very successful. As we age, we all want to remain physically active, even when our natural bodies may start to wear out. As a result, more than 285,000 total hip replacements are performed each year.

An artificial hip includes two parts, a cup and a ball. Originally, one part was made of metal and the other of plastic. About 10 years ago, manufacturers came out with a model that used metal on both sides. Soon, these “sturdier” devices accounted for about one-third of all hip replacements.

Artificial hips, made from metal and plastic, typically last about 15 years. But the metal-on-metal replacements are failing much sooner. Plus, they are “shedding” metallic debris that damages tissue and bone and leads to symptoms like skin rashes, neurological changes such as hearing and vision impairment, and psychological problems like depression. Patients with these metal-on-metal implants have also been found to have high levels of metal ions in their blood stream. This is evident from the microscopic particles escaping into the body.

An estimated 500,000 patients in the United States have received metal-on-metal hips from a variety of manufacturers. This is one of the biggest medical device failures in recent decades. With all of this new information, metal-on-metal devices are now used in only about five percent of hip replacement procedures.

In May 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered a post-market surveillance study on metal-on-metal hip replacements to see if they were shedding high levels of metallic debris. In January 2013, the FDA proposed that companies making metal-on-metal artificial hip joints produce medical evidence demonstrating their safety in order to stay on the market. Any new devices of this type will require human clinical evidence before they are approved.

Patients who already have a metal-on-metal hip must decide what to do. About 93,000 patients received a model manufactured by the DePuy division of Johnson & Johnson. It was recalled in mid-2010. An internal analysis conducted by the company following this recall estimates that the all-metal device would fail within five years in nearly 40 percent of patients who received it. The company did not release this information, but it became public in early 2013 as a court document.

If you have this specific type of metal-on-metal hip replacement implant, you should regularly see your doctor for a routine evaluation of the hip joint. There are specific recommendations for patients with this implant about what tests and monitoring should be done and if further surgery should be considered.

At Nelson, Bryan and Jones, we are actively representing many people who have had metal hip replacements like you. There are settlement options that may become available very soon. Most people who have metal hips will need an attorney to help them navigate through a very complex claims process. Please give us a call if you would like to talk further about your legal remedies.

Please send the questions to:

Ask the Attorney

P. O. Box 2309, Jasper, AL 35502


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