Faulty hip implants: sixty percent face replacement surgery. Up to six-in-10 patients fitted with faulty hip implants will face replacement surgery in the future, according to a legal firm working on behalf of some of those affected. Legal health specialists Malcolmson Law believe as many as 1,700 of the 3,500 patients affected by the worldwide recall in August by DePuy Orthopaedics of two hip replacement implant products will require further treatment. Managing partner Raymond Bradley said this is a far higher figure than estimated by the Health Service Executive (HSE), which said a ‘minority’ of patients will require further surgery. “Our experts have carried out statistical analysis. They reckon that in five to six years, up to 60% will require hip replacement,” Mr Bradley said. The experts include Dr Thomas Joyce, an expert in the design and evaluation of artificial joints from Newcastle University’s School of Mechanical and Systems Engineering, and university colleague Mr David Langton, orthopaedic surgeon.
Dr Joyce and Mr Langton have published widely on the design faults of the DePuy ASR Hip Replacement and Hip Resurfacing Systems at the centre of the recall. Speaking after a medico -legal conference hosted by Malcolmson Law at the weekend, Dr Joyce said in addition to the failure of the implant, metal poisoning is an emerging problem.
“It’s the metallic wear debris that comes off the joint — some gets trapped around the joint and it destroys the tissue there and it can damage the bone. But it can also travel around the body and we still don’t fully understand the long-term complications of that,” he said. The products in question have a ball and socket metal -on-metal design.
Mr Bradley said it also emerged at the conference that a number of patients had not yet been tested for metallosis, which occurs when metallic debris builds up in the soft tissue around the implant. This can cause inflammation or trigger an allergic reaction caused by metal sensitivity. In addition, those tested were waiting up to six weeks for results in some cases, he said. “There is a lot of anger towards the HSE among those still waiting for blood test results. It is causing a lot of anxiety,” he added.
“It’s not healthy, it’s causing pain and affects mobility,” Mr Bradley said.
Mr Bradley said a number of the 100-plus people who attended the conference also spoke of the build-up of fluid “like cottage cheese” around hip joints. He said some people had to have fluid drained. He also said one man who attended and had undergone testing had been told he had cobalt levels outside the safe range. The release of cobalt occurs when the two parts of the hip implant rub against one another. DePuy said its top priority is patient safety and it will reimburse all reasonable costs of medical care associated with the recall. The HSE said all 3,500 patients are due to have attended recall appointments by the end of January and a small number of surgeries had already taken place.