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Hip Implant Complaints Surge

by hef | August 23rd, 2011

On August 24, 2010, DePuy Orthopaedics, a division of Johnson & Johnson, sent a letter to doctors announcing a recall of two of their hip replacement systems, the ASR XL Acetabular System, and the ASR Hip Resurfacing System. Why? Because they have a higher-than-usual failure rates, causing people to have to have second surgeries to replace the replacement.

About 1 in 8 percent of the DePuy replacements will fail within 5 years. What’s worse, the faulty hip replacement causes serious pain and difficulty walking, and recovery from the second hip replacement is often more difficult than after the first. There is also the possibility of metallic particles being shed by the devices. These potentially toxic cobalt-chromium particles may, in high levels, cause heart and/or nervous system problems.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, since January 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received more than 5,000 reports of problems with metal-on-metal hip replacements… more than they received in the previous four years combined. About 75 percent of the complaints were about the recalled Johnson & Johnson products.

The mounting complaints confirm what many experts have feared — that all-metal replacement hips are on a trajectory to become the biggest and most costly medical implant problem since Medtronic recalled a widely used heart device component in 2007. About 7,700 complaints have been filed in connection with that recall.

Many of the metal-on-metal hip replacement products were sold without testing them in patients (a move that, strangely is  within FDA guidelines). But in May 2011, the FDA ordered producers to examine the failure rate, the complication rate, and the threat to patients. In addition, researchers are trying to understand exactly how the metal particles cause tissue damage, and why some people experience debilitating pain, while others don’t. According to the article in The New York Times:

As problems and questions grow, most surgeons are abandoning the all-metal hips, saying they are unwilling to expose new patients to potential dangers when safer alternatives — mainly replacements that combine metal and plastic components — are available. Some researchers also fear that many all-metal hips suffer from a generic flaw. Current use of all metal devices has plummeted to about 5 percent of the market, though a few of the models are performing relatively well in select patients.

“It is like playing Russian roulette,” said Dr. Geoffrey H. Westrich, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, who has stopped using all-metal implants.

But for patients who already have tissue damage from faulty hip replacements, the idea that the FDA will now begin studying the devices amounts to little more than a cruel joke. According to one patient, physical therapist Ann Morrison, who was interviewed by reporters for The New York Times:

“We will be the little crash test dummies here until they figure out the health ramifications for us down the road,” said Ms. Morrison, who has sued the DePuy division of Johnson & Johnson, which made her implants.

What To Do Now

If you already know that you received one of the recalled DePuy hip replacement systems, or any metal-on-metal hip replacement, we recommend two things:

1. Schedule a follow-up appointment with your surgeon, even if you’re not currently having symptoms. It is possible that you could have early signs of failure before you recognize the pain. Your doctor will be able to evaluate how your hip is functioning and whether the recalled implant is in need of replacement.

In that visit, your orthopaedic surgeon may also want do a blood test that looks at the level of microscopic metal particles around your hip. Metal particles are a sign that recalled implant has failed. If the blood test indicates a high level of these particles, your surgeon may want to do a second blood test three months later. These levels may be high even if you are not experiencing any symptoms, so this blood testing is very important.

2. Call HensonFuerst Attorneys for important information about your rights. If you or someone you care about received one of these defective joint replacement components, we would like to speak with you right away.  You may have a legal case and be able to collect compensation for the injury caused by this faulty medical device.

What’s most important: DO NOT contact DePuy, or SIGN ANY RELEASES OF YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS TO DePuy or JOHNSON & JOHNSON or any other manufacturer before you talk with a lawyer. On DePuy’s website, they ask patients to register with them and receive a claim number. DO NOT DO THIS YOURSELF. Let a lawyer handle everything. Big corporations look out for their own financial interests, not the interests of people who may have been harmed. If Johnson & Johnson was interested in helping patients, they would not have allowed the device to continue to be sold even after they knew it was causing serious problems.

At HensonFuerst, your health is our top priority. We dedicate ourselves to protecting individuals from the greed and callousness of large corporations. Let us work for you. Our attorneys are available 24 hours/day, every day of the year at 1-800-4-LAW-MED (1-800-452-9633). Or, visit our website at www.lawmed.com for more information. You can also fill out a free online consultation form for an immediate evaluation of your case.

Life Doesn’t Wait, and neither should you. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers!

This law firm is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or associated with the Associated Press, DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., or Johnson & Johnson

To see the HensonFuerst YouTube video about the DePuy hip recall, click here:  HensonFuerst YouTube video

To read the full article in The New York Times, click here:  Hip Implant Complaints Surge, Even as the Dangers Are Studied

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