Study aims to find better, safer materials for hip implants

Researchers at the University of Limerick are gathering preliminary data on artificial joints in hopes of improving the lifespan of orthopaedic devices including artificial hips.

About 750,000 surgeries to implant orthopaedic joints are performed each year in the United States, and that number is expected to climb to 4.5 million by 2030. Artificial hips are valuable devices for improving mobility and easing pain and discomfort for patients with hip joints damaged by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, injury or other conditions. Typically, hip implants can last up to 20 years or more with about 13 percent failing prematurely.

These traditional hip implants are made with ceramic or plastic parts. But newer devices introduced over the past decade are made with all metal parts, or metal-on-metal. These devices were designed to be more durable. However, there are serious concerns about these implants. These devices are linked to numerous reports of pain and disability, and may even poison the blood if bits of metal from the device leech into the bloodstream.

Nearly two dozen companies manufacture all-metal hip implants, and many have received complaints about these devices. In 2010, DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, issued a worldwide recall of its ASR XL Acetabular hip replacement and hip resurfacing systems because of reported problems with the devices. DePuy is currently facing hundreds of lawsuits from people who say they were injured by defective devices.

The team of researchers at Limerick hopes it can help prevent similar problems with artificial joints in the future by pinpointing the failure mechanisms in various materials used in the implants and determining which hold up better over time. This is being achieved by looking at the link between sterilization methods and wear in the materials used to make these joints, and exploring its translation in further biomedical research.

Source: Limerick Leader