According to a study published by the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, problems with metal-on-metal hip implants such as inflammation and tissue damage may be present before symptoms such as as discomfort or pain ever appear. The researchers say that implant failure can be detected with a simple MRI before the patient ever experiences the first signs of pain, and before the surrounding tissue sustains any further damage.
Inflammation of the joint lining is called synovitis, and is linked with metal-on-metal hip implants, manufacturers of these devices are currently facing a number of lawsuits alleging injuries linked to their products.
Other metal-on-metal hip manufacturers such as Smith & Nephew, Wright Medical, Zimmer Biomet Holdings and Stryker have experienced similar complaints related to their metal hip implant designs, such as reports of device failure within five years, loosening, bone erosion, damage to surrounding tissue and metallosis, a dangerous blood condition that occurs when metal bits flake off the device and make their way into the bloodstream.
Of the patients tested during the study, MRIs identified synovitis in 68 percent of asymptomatic hips.
Hollis Potter, M.D., chief of the Division of Magnetic Resonance Imaging at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, is confident that MRIs are the best way to detect problems with a metal-on-metal hip implant.
“The study shows that synovitis exists in asymptomatic people in a fairly high prevalence,” said Potter. “If that is the case, symptoms alone are insufficient to determine the health of an implant. You can’t wait for people to be sore before we evaluate them for this potential problem.”
Patients that have received a metal-on-metal hip implant are encouraged to check with their doctor to ensure that the device is working properly and hasn’t begun to show signs of failure.