When orthopedic surgeon Stephen Tower realized in 2006 that in order to continue his recreational cycling he needed hip replacement surgery, he picked the newest and seemingly most durable hip implant on the market at the time – a metal-on-metal device made by DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. The hip implant was specifically marketed to younger, active patients like Stephen.
However, after a year Stephen was having pain in his hip and balance issues that caused him to crash his bike. Within the next year, he began experiencing more problems – ringing in his ears, sleep apnea, mild deafness, vision problems, and a mood disorder. A blood test showed he had cobalt levels 300 times higher than normal.
It was all the proof Stephen needed to believe the metal-on-metal hip implant he received was corroding inside his body, causing a type of blood poisoning known as metallosis. Stephen went through revision surgery to remove and replace the defective device with a ceramic-on-plastic model. Since then his cobalt levels have returned to normal and his neurologic symptoms cleared up.
A year after Stephen’s surgery, DePuy Orthopaedics ordered a recall of the metal-on-metal hip implant. Since the DePuy recall, the safety of metal-on-metal hip implants from a variety of medical device manufacturers has come into question around the world with device regulators recommending patients with all-metal devices be monitored on a regular basis to check for premature failure and metallosis.
In the first of more than 10,000 lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson regarding the all-metal implants, internal documents were released that showed Johnson & Johnson conducted studies that showed 40 percent of its all-metal hips would fail within five years. That case resulted in a Los Angeles jury awarding a retired Montana prison guard $8.3 million in damages.
Source: Anchorage Daily News