How do metal-on-metal hip implants cause injury?
Minneapolis personal injury lawyer Bill Sieben discusses the variety of ways hip implants can cause injury.
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The simple answer is the two pieces that go into a hip implant, you’ve got the sacrum, which has the cup, and you’ve got the femur, which has the head of the femur that fits into the cup, and in the surgery there’s arthritis, or there’s a fracture, there’s an injury and there’s a problem with one or both of the components that God gave you. Okay. So you have to take out the cup in the sacrum in the iliac crest, and you have to take out the head of the femur, and when they say metal-on-metal, there are metal parts that go into replace those two parts. So you’ve got the cup and the head of the femur, which fit together something like this.
But the problem with the metal-on-metal implants is that the metal rubs on the metal and that flakes off metal particles. The metal particles are composed of cobalt and chromium. The cobalt and chromium gets flaked off into your system in microscopic particles. It’s cobalt and chromium that causes enormous problems for people; tumors, pseudo tumors, infection, infection-like processes that cause swelling, problems that get right into the joint and the bone that causes bone death where the metal pieces aren’t. So it’s caused enormous problems for thousands of people in this country, and even more so worldwide.
This wasn’t a problem that we discovered in the United States. It should have been. The manufacturer should have told us about problems that they were having, that they learned about even before it went on the market. Australia and Great Britain discovered an alarming increase in the number of revisions required for metal-on-metal hip implants in those countries. They disclosed it to the world. Studies were done and in fact, what should be a five percent or less failure rate in hip implants, a very successful surgery for millions of people in this country, failure rates should be under five percent. Well, Depuy reported a failure rate of 30 percent, which is alarming.
Now, the failure rate since then, since they disclosed this to the public in the fall of 2010, is actually much higher. It’s approaching 50 percent, so in our office with the several hundred people we’ve represented with metal-on-metal hip implants, the number of people that have had to have the bad hip taken out and a new hip put in is approaching 50 percent. Remember again, the failure rate should be less than five percent.