Makers of all-metal hip replacement systems, including Johnson & Johnson and Zimmer Holdings, will likely shell out millions, possibly billions, in settlement fees to patients who have suffered after they received the hip implants, according to Forbes.
Artificial hips are traditionally made with plastic or ceramic parts, but many newer versions on the market are made with all metal parts. The idea behind the new composition was that they would hold up better over time. But the design, surgeons have discovered, is flawed. When the metal ball rubs against the metal socket, tiny bits of metal debris may fall into the joint space. This can cause the tissue around the implant to become inflamed, which may aggravate the implant and speed wear and tear.
Implants usually began to fail after 15 or 20 years, but surgeons have found that the all-metal implants have been failing at a higher than expected rate – often after just five years or less. Some patients who have received these all-metal implants report being in more pain and having less mobility than before their hip replacement surgery. Many have had to undergo revision surgery, which is more invasive and complicated than the original surgery and requires a longer recovery period.
These metal-on-metal devices are also accused of causing a troublesome new complication – blood poisoning. High levels of cobalt and chromium from the metal debris may be leeching into the bloodstream and making patients sick. The long-term complications from the condition are still unknown.
Last year, amid mounting reports of failures, Johnson & Johnson recalled its ASR XL Acetabulator metal-on-metal hip replacement and hip resurfacing systems. While the company has offered to cover the cost of revision surgeries to have the implants replaced, many victims of the defective devices say it is not enough. As a result, Johnson & Johnson and other all-metal artificial hip makers, are facing lawsuits from patients who say they deserve more.