Di Harvey, an ambitious 60-year-old former nurse in New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, had been hard at work restoring her town as well as the cinema and antique shop wiped out by the flood waters of Charlton in 2011. But when health problems started getting in the way of her efforts, Harvey sought necessary medical help.
After pain killers and anti-inflammatories didn’t help the pain in her neck diagnosed as a pinched nerve, she visited an orthopedic surgeon. The neck pain was a result of her back problem, the Bendigo orthopedic surgeon had said, which was a direct result of her artificial right hip that had been installed in 2003.
“The NSW surgeon had described it as the Rolls-Royce of hips,” said Harvey. “It was expected to last 15 to 20 years.” Harvey trusted the doctor at the time and received a cobalt-chromium alloy hip, the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing (BHR) system.
Seven years later, Harvey needed a full revision surgery. The metal-on-metal hip had to be replaced. During the year that she spent on the medical insurance waiting list, her inability to function forced her to sell the beloved antique shop. When she finally received a new ceramic-blend hip, she simultaneously had to receive a knee replacement on the opposite leg, which she favored when walking due to excruciating pain. She says she was tortured by other symptoms, as well.
“I developed a hacking cough,” Harvey recalled. “I got very sick, began vomiting bile every day. I had heart palpitations. I felt if I over-exerted myself I would drop dead.”
In Harvey’s research, she was alarmed when she found that metal-on-metal hips were linked to metal poisoning. In an article in the Medical Journal of Australia in June 2011, Harvey found that, according to Professor Xinzhan Mao, Dr. Andrew Wong and Professor Ross Crawford, three medical specialists of Queensland, cobalt and chromium hips could leach “a variety of metal ions into local tissue and [into] the general circulation…” The three specialists described hand tremors, depression, vertigo, hearing loss and heart problems in association with elevated cobalt levels.
Harvey fears that the nightmare will never end. “I have got rid of my BHR hip, but I have been told that once the cobalt and chromium get into your body the damage has been done.”
Makers of metal-on-metal hips in the U.S. and abroad have been under fire for months for issues similar to those reported by Di Harvey. There are a number of lawsuits filed against the device manufacturers for complaints alleging chronic pain, metal poisoning (or metallosis) and other problems blamed on the implants.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald