Colin Gee is a 72-year-old British retired council worker from the Isle of Wight. He loved to swim 40-60 lengths, could walk for miles on end, and cared for his wife Andrea, who has dementia. The only thing that slowed him down was a metal-on-metal hip implant.
Gee had received an ASR metal hip implant made by DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Soon after, he reported that the new hip caused a “tennis ball”-sized swelling and kept him in daily pain. He described his life as “hell.”
“The pain is always there,” Gee said. “I was very fit before. I was swimming 40-60 lengths, walking for miles. I’ve always been fit and determined, I can’t bear not to be doing anything physical. Now I can’t do what I previously did. It has blighted my life.”
Gee eventually had revision surgery to remove the hip causing him agony, but the damage had already been done to the surrounding muscle and tissue. Gee said he has “never recovered.”
The ASR, which is now recalled, was dubbed by the New York Times as “one of the most-flawed medical implants sold in recent decades.” In 2011, an internal document by DePuy estimated that the device would fail within five years in 40 percent of patients.
The issue with the ball-and-metal cup design was that as it wears, it sheds metal bits, specifically cobalt and chromium, into the patient’s body, which may result in tissue and/or muscle damage, and the potential for a type of blood metal poisoning known as metallosis.