A healthy 42-year-old UK woman had a hip resurfacing surgery, receiving a brand new metal-on-metal hip made of cobalt and chromium by Smith & Nephew Orthopaedics. After only four years she began experiencing progressing pain. Six months later, she was diagnosed with destruction of bone tissue called osteolysis, and the metal level in her blood was “grossly elevated.”
Doctors discovered during surgery that metallosis, or blood poisoning caused by metal content, was “massive aggressive” both in the joint and around it. Half the cervical neck of the implant had been heavily eroded as well as the acetabulum. The “catastrophic” hip implant failure was corrected by revision surgery, using bone grafting, a large rim mesh and a polyethylene cup.
Other metal-on-metal hip manufacturers such as Wright Medical, Zimmer Biomet Holdings and Stryker have been facing lawsuits for similar complaints regarding the faulty hip implant design. Traditional hip implants are made of plastic or ceramic parts that can last up to 20 years. These metal-on-metal designs were initially recommended for patients that were younger or had higher levels of activity in their daily lives. The manufacturers claimed that they would last longer and perform better for more active lifestyles.
Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, DePuy Orthopaedics, have been dealing with thousands of lawsuits regarding its ASR hip which, according to the New York Times, has been dubbed “one of the biggest medical device failures in recent decades.” In a recent verdict, five plaintiffs were awarded $500 million, a verdict that Johnson & Johnson is attempting to appeal.