Metal-On-Metal Devices Lead To Severe Complications
One of the more common risks cited in lawsuits comes in the form of metallosis, a medical condition in which metal debris chafes off of a metal implant and builds up as deposits in the body’s soft tissues. In some patients, metallosis can lead to metal poisoning, pain, cognitive deficits and even death. The buildup of metal particles can cause systemic effects, symptoms that aren’t isolated to the hip.
That’s why health regulators from the United States to Australia have advised patients with metal-on-metal implants to watch for general signs of illness, including skin rashes and symptoms of thyroid impairment, including neck pain and fatigue.
Metal Poisoning & Implant Failure
Metal-on-metal hip implants, the Food & Drug Administration writes, “have unique risks in addition to the general risks of all hip implants.” As we’ve already noted, chief among these unique risks is that the movement of implant components creates friction, which in turn can lead to corrosion of metal particles and serious health conditions like metallosis.
But metallosis isn’t the only complication created by metal wear in a hip replacement. Just as common, and directly linked to the corrosion of metal particles, is out-and-out implant failure. While the metal’s fragmentation can lead to “adverse local tissue reactions,” including bone and soft tissue damage, this process of deterioration also comes to compromise the implant’s structure.
Premature Failure & Revision Surgery
Metal-on-metal implants, often over very brief periods of time, can begin to loosen, coming apart inside the body and causing terrible pain. In time, the implant breaks down completely, forcing patients back into the operating room, where they will undergo revision procedures that also carry their own high risks of complication.
How long do metal-on-metal implants last? The answer, as medical researchers have found, is not very long. Most implants are designed to last for decades, but several recent models have experienced extraordinarily high rates of premature failure. A 2012 study published in Orthopedics found that up to 78% of patients receiving a metal-on-metal implant were forced to undergo a revision procedure within two years of first receiving the device. The majority of these failing hip implants had been manufactured by Zimmer Biomet, but major players like DePuy Synthes and Wright Medical were also represented.
Medical Device Recalls
As a result of these serious health concerns, many of the most prominent hip manufacturers have issued large product recalls, pulling defective or dangerous implants off the market. In fact, a Consumers Union review conducted in 2013 found that between 2002 and 2013, the six largest hip implant manufacturers had issued a total of 578 product recalls.
Nearly 90% of these recalls were classified as Class II, signifying “a situation in which use of or exposure to a violative product may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences.” And many, according to FDA researchers, were due to outright design flaws.
We’ve focused primarily on metal-on-metal implants, because the vast majority of lawsuits have been filed by patients who received metal replacement devices. But thousands of claims have also been filed in regard to newer designs, including devices made primarily from ceramic and polyethylene.
Hip Replacement Lawsuits Often End In Settlement
Many of these hip replacement litigations have already ended in major financial settlements.
Medical device manufacturing conglomerate Zimmer Biomet, as just one example, settled over 400 lawsuits in 2016, offering injured plaintiffs a whopping $314 million in compensation, or a little under $1 million per patient. That same year, Johnson & Johnson lost an even larger legal battle, when a jury in Texas ordered the health care conglomerate to pay just six patients an enormous sum, more than $1 billion, due to alleged design flaws found in the company’s Pinnacle hip implant.
These are just two examples from a series of litigations that have taken the legal world by storm. Nearly every major manufacturer of hip replacement has been drawn into court over allegations of selling a defective implant and failing to warn the public:
- Zimmer Biomet
- DePuy Synthes (subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson)
- Smith & Nephew
- Wright Medical
Several of these manufacturers continue to fight on in court, as more and more patients file lawsuits of their own. Johnson & Johnson, for example, remains committed to defending itself against claims involving the Pinnacle hip, which is sold under the company’s DePuy Synthes brand name. That’s true despite the company having lost multiple enormous jury trials, including the $1 billion verdict we mentioned earlier. There may still be time for patients who suffered a Pinnacle failure to file suit.
New Hip Implant MDLs
An emerging litigation involves the Stryker-branded CoCr V40 hip, a metal-on-metal device that was recalled in 2016 after an internal corporate review found that one of the implant’s main components could corrode or fracture at “higher than expected” rates. Today, dozens of lawsuits related to the device are pending in the US District Court of Massachusetts, where a Stryker Multi-District Litigation has been formed. In Boston, the claims will move through pre-trial proceedings as a group.
To learn more about filing a Stryker hip lawsuit, click here.
Similar court proceedings are taking place in the US District Court of Maryland. There, under the guidance of District Judge Catherine C. Blake, over 200 lawsuits involving Smith & Nephew’s Birmingham Hip Resurfacing system are currently consolidated. Like Stryker’s V40 implant, the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing device is made from an alloy of cobalt and chromium, two metals that plaintiffs say release dangerous ions into body tissues.
Find More Information
Did you or a loved one undergo a hip revision surgery after experiencing unexpected complications? Significant financial compensation may be available. Contact our experienced product liability attorneys now to receive a free consultation. You can learn more about case eligibility and your own legal options at no cost and no obligation. Even better, our hip implant lawyers always offer their services on a contingency-fee basis – you pay nothing until we secure compensation in your case. There’s absolutely no risk. Call our attorneys and start the legal process today.
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