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Medical Device Injuries: Hip Replacement Surgery


Since its development in the 1960’s, hip replacement surgery has become one of the most common and successful joint replacement surgeries. Innovation in technique and technology have increased the effectiveness of this surgery to the point that now more than 300,000 people every year undergo total hip replacement. Unfortunately, however, up to 40% of patients who undergo hip replacement surgery experience complications. While some of the complications are caused by medical malpractice other complications are caused by defects in the devices themselves. If either of these causes led to a complication during your surgery, our personal injury attorneys may be able to help.

Recently, claims alleging hip implant defects have been made against the following manufacturers:

  • DePuy Orthopaedics (Johnson & Johnson);
  • Stryker Orthopedics;
  • Smith and Nephew; and
  • Biomet.

Complications from a defective implant can result in pain, medical expenses and a need for additional surgery.  Fortunately, there are options available to you if you believe that the implant used during your surgery was defective, or you were the victim of medical malpractice. If you are experiencing complications from a hip replacement surgery you may be entitled to file a claim.

What is the Hip Joint?

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint, with the pelvis forming the socket and the upper end of the thighbone (femur) forming the ball. Between this ball and socket, there are layers of cartilage and smooth tissue that provide a cushion to the ends of the bones, allowing them to move fluidly. As we age, this protective cartilage wears down, causing arthritis, pain, stiffness, and general discomfort. This is the most common reason for hip surgery, but other factors such as a previous injury or childhood hip problems can result in the need for a hip replacement. Most recipients of replacement surgery range from 50 to 80 years old, although recently younger patients have been receiving replacements as well. Doctors usually recommend this surgery for those with high levels of pain. This is pain that limits daily activities, limits range of motion, and lasts into the night.

What is a Hip Replacement?

Hip replacement surgery, or hip arthroplasty surgery, is a way to repair and replace a damaged hip joint. A hip replacement surgery removes the ineffective and damaged cartilage, replacing it with prosthetic parts that mimic the actual joint. The damaged end of the femur bone is fitted with a metal or ceramic cap, in order to replace the damaged “ball” part of the joint. Then, damaged cartilage is scraped from the socket of the pelvis. This is also fitted with a metal socket. To replace the protective cartilage, the surgeon inserts either a metal, ceramic, or plastic spacer between the new ball and socket. Ideally, patients should return to a high degree of activity within a few months.

Complications from Hip Replacement Surgery

There are many different complications that can occur from surgery. Besides the complications that arise from this type of surgery, there are complications that are specific to joint replacements. These include:

  • Tissue death;
  • Bone deterioration around the implant;
  • Bone growth around the normal edges of the bone; and
  • General wear and tear, resulting in the need for revision surgery.

These complications can cause loosening or popping in the replacement, fractures, change in the ability to walk, and device failure. There are various ways to replace a hip, resulting from a choice in materials. One of the most damaging types is the metal-on-metal replacement.

Metal-on-Metal Hip Replacement

One new development in hip replacements is using a metal-on-metal joint. This means that the femur “ball,” socket, and lining in between all consist of cobalt-chromium-molybdenum alloys. This type of replacement can cause a unique set of complications. The constant metal-on-metal rubbing causes friction, allowing bits of metal to come off the implants. This can damage the surrounding bone and tissue. In severe cases, enough metal particles can enter the bloodstream and lead to neurological damage such as hearing or vision loss. In 2013, the FDA issued a warning against all metal-on-metal implants. Additionally, manufacturers must prove implant safety prior to selling the devices in the United States.  Knowing the type of replacement you have will help your personal injury attorneys with your claim.

Hip Replacement Injury Attorneys

If you have any questions about your hip replacement, you can email or call our  office at (800) 762-9300.  You can also fill out one of our case intake forms, and one of our attorneys will get right back to you.

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