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M. Brandon Smith
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Cancer and The DePuy ASR Hip Systems: Is There A Link And Should Patients Be Concerned?

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The evidence against metal-on-metal hip implants continues to grow. Late last month, a joint report from the BBC and the British Medical Journal indicated that recipients of large metal-on-metal hip replacements may be at an increased risk of cancer in addition to early hip failure, toxicity and other complications.

As a result, the main regulatory agency in Britain—the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency—said that these patients were considered to be in a “high-risk” category that will necessitate annual monitoring indefinitely. That monitoring affects nearly 50,000 patients who received large-head metal-on-metal hip implant devices. Another 15,000 patients aren’t considered high risk even though they have a metal-on-metal device, because of the smaller size of that device.

Ever since DePuy Orthopaedics issued a recall of nearly 100,000 metal-on-metal hip implant devices in 2010, the risks of these products have become relatively well-known. A primary concern with the devices is that the friction created between the two metal components in the device will cause metal shards to enter the bloodstream. That metal is toxic to the body and can cause metallosis or cobalt poisoning, in addition to destroying muscle and bone tissue in the area of the implant. Nearly 5,000 lawsuits have been filed against DePuy already and the company has set aside $3 billion in anticipation of possibly having to compensate patients.

This issue is, of course, not limited to Britain. It is estimated that in the United States a huge proportion of the 500,000 patients who had hip replacement surgery in the last decade received one of the faulty all-metal devices. That means those patients will possibly face the risks that these devices pose and should be alert to the early signs of implant failure. These include:

  • Pain in the groin, hip or leg
  • Swelling at or near the hip joint
  • A limp or a change in walking ability
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Changes in vision or hearing
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling cold
  • Weight gain
  • Change in urination habits

As more information is learned it will be the subject of many updates and new articles in the weeks ahead.