Terri, a mother of twin college-age daughters and a grown son, told the Minnesota StarTribune that the DePuy ASR artificial hip she received in 2008 to counter the chronic arthritis in her right hip gave her a new lease on life. As she recovered from replacement surgery, the pain subsided and her mobility improved dramatically.
The increased activity allowed Terri to shed excess weight, and she went from 219 pounds to 165 in just a year. But in late 2009, her right hip popped, the pain came back, and all her progress stopped. In fact, she found herself sliding backward to an even worse condition than the one she was in before she received her DePuy implant.
First, she regained all the weight she had lost. Then she had to undergo revision surgery in December, but an infection prevented the surgeon from replacing the faulty DePuy hip implant that had been removed. “For a time, her kidneys and her liver failed,” the StarTribune reported. Terri now has spacers where her hip should be, making it impossible to walk. Today she lives at a friend’s house and looks forward to the day she can reclaim her life.
“I’m just so happy I am alive,” she told the StarTribune. “But it’s frustrating as heck.” Terri’s attorney said the DePuy implants have “turned her life upside-down.”
Unfortunately, thousands of Americans and people in several other countries who have been implanted with one of DePuy’s metal-on-metal ASR hip devices are experiencing problems much like Terri’s. Friction between the all-metal parts may release particles of cobalt and chromium into the body. For some patients, the excessive amounts of these metals sets off a chain reaction inside the body, leading to decay of the bone, tissue, and muscle surrounding the implant, constant pain, hip failure and dislocation, and a range of illnesses related to metal poisoning, including tumors and possibly cancer. Other metal-hip implant patients who test positive for high levels of metal in their blood may experience no noticeable reactions.
DePuy Orthodpaedics recalled its ASR XL Acetabular System and ASR Hip Resurfacing System in August 2010 after clinical tests confirmed 12-13 percent of the devices failed within 5 years. The recalled DePuy ASR devices have been implanted in about 93,000 patients worldwide, including some 37,000 Americans.
Dr. Alan Knopf, an orthopedic surgeon who teaches at UCLA and USC, told the StarTribune that the “metal-on-metal concept … has lost enthusiasm in the medical community.” Before the widely publicized DePuy recalls, metal-on-metal hip implants accounted for one third of all hip-replacement surgeries. Today they account for less than five percent.