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Are Metal on Metal Hip Implants Safer Than Plastic?

Hip replacements have been around for a long time. In fact, it has been 40 years since the Federal Food and Drug Administration approved the first implant devices. It is estimated that currently, there are 500,000 people in the U.S. with hip implants. When the hip is fractured, or there is abnormal degeneration from disease or wear and tear, a hip replacement is necessary. There are many different materials used for the actual implant device. Metal on metal, metal on plastic, and ceramic have all been used with varying degrees of success. What material will be used is usually determined by the orthopedic surgeon, taking into account lifestyle, age, body size and gender.

A hip replacement device is made up of three parts; the stem (which is inserted into the leg bone), a ball (attached to the top of the leg bone), and a cup (that is attached to the hip).

Types of Hip Replacement Devices

There are three main types of hip implant devices, metal on plastic, ceramic, and metal on plastic.

Metal on plastic implants have been the most commonly used variety, and have been around for about 40 years. With this type, the ball and socket are metal, usually cobalt chrome, titanium or stainless steel. The spacer in between the metal pieces is plastic, usually polyethylene. The down side of these implants is that because of friction in the device, very small plastic particles can become loose and enter the bloodstream. This can cause the implant to loosen over time, making a revision surgery necessary.

Another type of implant is ceramic. This type of implant is relatively new, and is a good option for some patients. Ceramic is not as prone to wear and tear like metal or plastic. Because of its longevity, it is a good option for younger people, and also those with metal allergies.

Metal on metal hip implants have their advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, these implants are very durable and long lasting, which is why they are often used in younger patients. They are supposed to last at least 20 years. Metal implants are also larger, which lessens the possibility that the device will dislocate.

The disadvantages of a metal on metal implant are that metal ions can separate from the device and enter the bloodstream and surrounding tissues. This causes a serious medical condition called metallosis, or metal poisoning. In 2011, because of increasing reports of hip failure, the FDA said that metal on metal implants prose a “unique risk” and ordered all manufacturers of metal implants to conduct studies find why they are failing. Patients have reported a laundry list of problems with the implants which include:

  • Loosening
  • “Squeaky hip”
  • Swelling
  • Bone loss
  • Inflammation
  • Cognitive problems
  • Circulation problems

Unfortunately if complications arise, it can become necessary to do a revision surgery. This causes the patient additional pain and suffering, healing time, physical therapy, medical costs and missed time from work. Currently, there are multiple recalls for several types of metal on metal devices. If you are experiencing symptoms of hip implant failure, it is important to take prompt action and speak to a Missouri products liability lawyer as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, there are multiple studies that report that there are other serious problems that can result from a metal implant failure. If a patient experiences any symptoms that indicate that their device is not operating properly, they are advised to consult their surgeon right away. Several tests may conducted, such as blood tests (to check for metals), joint aspiration, and soft tissue imaging. Patients are also advised to monitor their general health and report any usual symptoms. Sometimes, problems occur in other areas of the body indicating a problem such as:

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Skin rashes
  • Neurological changes (visual or auditory)
  • Impaired renal function
  • Thyroid problems

Hip Implant Lawsuits

Lawsuits are being filed for the failure of metal on metal hip implant devices. This deals with an area of law called product liability. Lawyers will argue in this instance that the manufacturer of these devices knew or should have known of the dangers involved. Further they have breached their duty to ensure that their product is safe and free from any harmful defects. Further, manufacturers are responsible for posting adequate warnings of the potential dangers involved in using their product. If you or a loved one has had a hip implant device fail, it is important to speak to The Bradley Law Firm for guidance. You could be entitled to compensation for your injuries.