Depuy hip failure in younger patients could mean lifetime of disability, pain

Susanna Derham, a resident of Surrey, England, was just 34 years old when she was implanted with an all-metal hip made by DePuy Orthopaedics. Her natural hip had plagued her with arthritis for years, so receiving a sturdy, state-of-the-art metal hip designed to last up to 25 years offered her hope for a better, less painful future. But she was wrong.

The relief Ms. Derham felt was short-lived. Four years after receiving her DePuy ASR hip implant, Ms. Derham’s life was marked with constant pain and swelling, making everyday activities increasingly difficult. When she had the problem checked, doctors discovered the DePuy implant was likely the source of extensive harm.

“They told me that this hip had to come out. It was causing too much damage to me” Ms. Derham told the BBC. “The only answer was to take it out.”

Many patients who were implanted with one of two metal-on-metal hip devices recalled by DePuy in 2010 allege friction between the metal parts released metal particles, setting off a toxic chain reaction within their bodies. Doctors who removed Ms. Derham’s implant found that it had destroyed 75 percent of the surrounding muscle tissue.

The injury has left Ms. Derham unable to work, a situation that sometimes overwhelms her with depression. “You just feel down really,” she told the BBC.

All-metal hips were intended to provide patients with a stronger, longer lasting alternative to traditional hip implants made with fragile plastic or ceramic components. The metal hips are especially attractive to younger, more active patients because they promise to last longer and hold up better to more strenuous activity.

But while the hips have worked as intended for some, for many others they have backfired. Younger patients such as Ms. Derham now face a lifetime of uncertainty wondering if they will ever recover from their injuries and regain the ability to walk with ease again.

According to the BBC, Ms. Derham has joined 120 other patients seeking compensation claims against DePuy in the U.K. One lawyer told the BBC that for younger patients like Ms. Derham, who may never be able to work again and have a lifetime of pain, compensation for their injuries may be about a million pounds (about $1.58 million U.S.).