It was nagging back pain, a presumed “pinched nerve,” that couldn’t be relieved with pain pills that sent Di Harvey to an orthopedic surgeon, but his diagnosis left her speechless. The back pain was not caused by a problem with her back, but was transferred pain from her artificial right hip, which had been implanted seven years earlier in 20013.
The news was unbelievable to Di because the hip implant she received was considered the “Rolls-Royce of hips,” a new metal-on-metal hip implant made of cobalt and chromium designed to be more durable than traditional ceramic or plastic hip implants. This new all-metal device was touted to last 20 years or more and would allow her to be more mobile.
Di had little choice but to undergo revision surgery to have the prosthesis removed and replaced, a surgery even more invasive than the first. The second implant was made of ceramic but a year later left her with knee pain that caused her to favor her right side, leaving her in need of a knee replacement.
But Di’s hip and knee were only part of the problem. She had begun to develop a hacking cough. “I got very sick, began vomiting bile every day. I had heart palpitations. I felt if I overexerted myself I would drop dead,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald.
After some research, she learned that metal-on-metal hip implants, like the one she had removed and replaced a year earlier, were prone to corroding inside patients’ bodies, leeching metal ions into the blood stream causing a type of blood poisoning known as metallosis. These elevated levels of cobalt and chromium had been blamed for a slew of medical symptoms, including hand tremors, depression, vertigo, hearing loss, heart problems, and many of those that Di complained of.
“I have got rid of my (metal) hip, but I have been told that once the cobalt and chromium get into your body the damage has been done,” Di said.
Di, along with thousands of other patients who have suffered injuries from premature failure of metal-on-metal hip implants, are suing manufacturers of these devices claiming the companies marketed the implants without fully testing them for safety and efficacy. While compensation will help offset the financial cost they have endured, it will be difficult to put a price tag on the pain and suffering the implants have caused.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald