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Mass Tort Law

Metal-on-Metal Hips


Metal-on-Metal Hip Implant Lawsuits

If you or a loved one has had a metal-on-metal (MoM) hip implant when undergoing  total hip arthroplasty (THA) surgery, with hip prosthetic devices from manufacturers such as Wright, Pinnacle, Biomet, Stryker, or DePuy, and suffered injuries caused by the device’s failure, you may be entitled to financial compensation.  MoM hip prosthetics may cause metallosis and other serious complications. Now is the time to seek legal assistance to see if you have a case.

For a variety of reasons, including joint deterioration, people need hip replacement surgery. These hip replacement or revision surgeries are among the most often-performed joint replacements in the U.S. MoM hip implants were marketed as allowing users to remain active and mobile, especially for younger people needing hip surgery.  However, due to issues with metal-on-metal hip implants, it’s possible that the procedure instead leads  to a long and painful medical journey.

What are Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants?

Hip replacement surgery involves removing the femoral head (ball) of the hip joint by cutting it from the femur (thighbone). Surgeons then attach the artificial joint to the femur with special material or cement. Following this, the surgeon removes any damaged cartilage from the acetabulum (hip socket) itself and attaches a new socket. Finally the new femoral head is inserted into the new acetabulum.

Traditionally, hip replacements were ceramic or plastic. MoM hip implants were introduced as an improvement over these traditional options. The MoM hip implants were supposed to be more durable than their ceramic and plastic predecessors, and to allow a greater range of motion. However, it soon became clear that not only were the MoM hip implants less durable (non-MoM hip implants usually last 10 years; MoM hip implants often need to be repaired after 5 years), but that the constant friction of the two metal parts rubbing against each other was producing unintended and serious health concerns.

Enter the FDA and Others

In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration issued a request to all metal-on-metal hip manufacturers for safety studies to be done. Some studies revealed that MoM hip implants have high failure rates and require more repair surgeries than the non-MoM options. Interestingly, the studies also showed that MoM hip implants fail more often in female patients than they do in male patients.

In a joint investigation, the BBC News and the British Medical Journal found a link between metal-on-metal hip implants and increased levels of potentially toxic metals in patients’ bloodstreams. These metal particles (ranging from ions to dust and shavings) can enter surrounding tissue, where they can lead to muscle and bone damage, as well as damage to the liver, spleen, kidneys and lymph nodes.

The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, an agency that performs the same duties as our FDA, got involved on September 27, 2016 when it issued a Hazard Alert on Stryker LFIT Anatomic CoCr V40 femoral heads. These femoral heads work with Stryker’s complete product line of hip replacement devices. The agency’s Alert stated that some of these femoral heads had a “higher than expected incidence of taper lock failures.” The taper lock connects the heads to the femoral neck. The neck is the section connecting the head to the femur.

If the taper lock fails, patients could find themselves, literally, in a world of hurt. The possible results of taper lock failure include:

  • Loss of mobility
  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Adverse local tissue reaction
  • Dislocation
  • Joint instability
  • Broken bones around the components
  • Leg length discrepancy
  • Need for revision surgery

Even one of the device manufacturers got involved. DePuy issued a recall on one of its metal-on-metal hip implants in 2010 when the company found the device had a high failure rate. However, recent studies suggest that all metal-on-metal hip implants are subject to the same type of problems (metal particles, premature failures). While all the lab tests indicate that metal-on-metal hip implants should be less likely to show such signs of wear, as well as reducing the risk of dislocation, no one knows exactly why they don’t behave that way once implanted in patients.

Signs Your Metal-on-Metal Hip Replacement has Failed

The FDA has stated that any patient experiencing any of the following symptoms three or more months post-surgery may have a defective metal-on-metal hip implant:

  • Hip fracture
  • Hip, groin or leg pain
  • Limping or limited motion
  • Grinding sensations
  • Clicking, squeaking, popping or grinding noises coming from the hip joint
  • Swelling at or around the hip joint.

These are more obvious problems, but they are not the only issues with which you should be concerned. As mentioned earlier, the constant metal-on-metal friction sometimes results in metal particles entering surrounding tissues and the bloodstream. The FDA advises to be aware of the following signs of metal toxicity:

  • Impaired kidney function
  • Thyroid problems (weight gain, neck discomfort, fatigue, feeling cold)
  • Depression, cognitive impairment or other psychological issues
  • Skin rashes
  • Hearing or vision impairments
  • Cardiomyopathy, a condition that weakens and enlarges the heart muscle.

Medical Terms to Know

Metallosis: a type of metal poisoning that results from the build-up of toxic metals in various body tissues. The metals are usually found in greater concentrations nearer to the source of the metal (the hip joint).

Cobalt/Chromium poisoning: This condition is often found in those with any metal-on-metal medical implants and involves very high levels of cobalt and/or chromium in the bloodstream

Pseudo-tumor: This condition involves an enlarged mass caused by chronic inflammation or fluid accumulation, both of which are common in those with metal-on-metal hip implants. Why You Should Seek Legal Assistance

Medical device litigation is often complex and you need attorneys on your side who know what they’re doing. Here at Justinian and Associates, we have that experience. For example, many people think that once they get the defective hip replaced, they can just file a claim and go from there. Sadly, it’s not that simple for you, the injured patient.

In cases involving medical implants, judges often issue specific orders that require the removed device be kept as evidence. These orders can involve very specific requirements, which if not met, could result in the evidence being declared “spoiled.” This could endanger any legal claims you have for your injuries. Not only do these orders call for the preservation of the device, they sometimes require that the surrounding tissues be preserved as well.

A good example of this is an “Explant Preservation Order” (explant being the term used to describe a removed medical implant) issued by the federal judge handling the DePuy ASR hip replacement multi-district litigation (MDL). This order tells all parties what is expected in evidence preservation after removal/revision surgeries. Some things included in that order are:

  • The DePuy ASR device has to be preserved and examined without causing any additional damage to the explant.
  • At the plaintiff’s request, hospitals must preserve whole blood/serum and/or synovial fluid.
  • The explanted device has to be kept by the receiving party or turned over to a specially-designated storage facility that has been mutually agreed upon in advance. Such places include Steelgate, Inc. and SciSafe, Inc.

Experienced attorneys, such as those at Justinian and Associates, know how to work with these orders. Even if your metal-on-metal hip implant isn’t a DePuy ASR, but is a Biomet, Wright, Stryker or Pinnacle device, it is safe to assume that some sort of preservation order has been issued. Therefore, if you are facing a revision surgery, we urge you to contact Justinian and Associates to learn more about what is required. Failure to follow these orders could mean serious sanctions, including the dismissal of your case. We can help make all the arrangements, and pay the cost, until the case resolves.

Even if you’ve yet to have problems with your metal-on-metal hip implant, it is advisable that you have yearly blood tests to ensure you’re not experiencing a toxic metal build-up. You should seek immediate medical attention and ask for an MRI scan if you have any pain, reduced motion or swelling.

Now is the Time to Act

If you or a loved one has had a metal-on-metal hip implant and experienced any of the complications listed above, the time to act is now. The statute of limitations, better known as the amount of time you have to file your case, varies by state so it's important to act now. Additional limitations may be imposed pursuant to certain settlement agreements with the various device manufacturers. Metal-on-metal hip implant litigation is going on across the country, in many state and federal courts.  If you are not sure whether or not you qualify to receive damages, don't worry. We're here for you and will do everything we can to help you receive the compensation you deserve. We're on your side.

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