After reading the article “In Medicine, New Isn't Always Improved” in the New York Times last Sunday, I am struck by how many recipients of metal-on-metal hip implants might be affected by the faulty design and poor testing of the newest hip implant technology. Lured by the intrigue of its newness, approximately 500,000 Americans took a gamble when they chose metal-on-metal hip implants. While so many embraced this new technology, few projected that this new design would prompt serious problems crippling patients with severe muscle and tissue damage, neurological problems, and tumors.
The article shows how powerful the psychological pull towards the “new” is. Manufacturers were quick to embrace the cutting-edge product for a leg up against competitors. Physicians, too, embraced the new trend, and the perceived ability to offer new and improved care to patients. And patients, naturally, desired that new and improved care. Unfortunately, these “innovations” have caused more harm than good. The new implants, called metal-on-metal implants, were thought be more advanced than the previous design of hip implants, which mixed both plastic and metal. The design is this: a metal cup, as opposed to a plastic cup, allows for a bigger ball component with hopes to lessen the risk of dislocation. Unfortunately, the oversized ball component has led to a shedding of metallic debris, often harming the implant recipients. While metal-on-metal implants were tested according to F.D.A standards, the machine testing did not account for the regular wear and tear of everyday human life, and the various nature of the real world. And thus, testing did not account for this problematic detail.
Manufacturers DePuy and Zimmer Holdings have both recalled models of their metal-on-metal hips. The ASR, by Depuy, and Zimmer's model, the Durom, failed at high rates leading to their subsequent recalls last year. While these models are claimed by their makers to be innovative, experts are suggesting that when an existing treatment is successful, it can be a gamble to embrace new technology that has such a narrow focus. These metal-on-metal hips are innovative for a small population – specifically, tall middle aged men – but unfortunately, about 65 percent of all metal-on-metal implants went to women and older patients. According to a comprehensive database on implants in Australia, while the metal-on-metal implants have done well for some patients, the new devices are twice more likely to require early replacement than the original metal and plastic ones.
As a Chicago personal injury lawyer I advise my clients with metal-on-metal hip implants to contact their doctors if they experience any pain. Even patients with metal-on-metal implants free of symptoms should seek immediate care to ensure their safety. While I expect that higher standards in product testing and functionality will eventually ensue, until then make sure you seek help to prevent any serious problems with your metal-on-metal implants.