Lawyer: “Hip Replacement Failures Rising At A Worrying Rate”

Lawyers Issue Legal Action After Patients Left Suffering Excruciating Pain From New Hips Supposed To Improve Their Lives

11.04.2011

A fast growing number of hip replacement patients across the country are taking legal action after suffering agonising pain making it difficult to even walk following hip resurfacing procedures that were supposed to improve their quality of life.

A leading medical lawyer is now urging patients affected by the recall of a hip replacement device manufactured by De Puy and other hip devices manufactured with metal to contact their surgeons if they have any concerns or are having any problems after recent figures reveal failure rates higher than the national guidelines.

A Cardiff woman among the 13,000 hip replacement patients who have received metal-on-metal resurfacing procedures in the last seven years says she has suffered years of pain despite doctors telling her she would be back on her feet in just eight weeks.

One hip replacement device called the ASR, manufactured by De Puy was recalled in August last year as faulty components cushioning the artificial joint were causing pseudo-tumours and increased levels of metal ions in the blood.

The ASR is just one type of metal-on-metal hip implants used for hip resurfacing.  The hip resurfacing procedure was developed as a surgical alternative to a total hip replacement.  The potential advantages of resurfacing compared a total hip replacement include less bone removal, a reduced chance of hip dislocation and easier revision surgery because there will be more bone left for the surgeon to use.

Between 2003 and 2009 more than 5,000 resurfacing operations were carried out per year.  The average failure rate five years on from the operation for standard cemented implants is just two per cent compared with the ASR which has a 12 per cent revision rate – a figure above the national guidelines.

Gary Walker, a patient’s rights specialist at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors represents a number of clients affected and is receiving new enquiries daily. He has now issued legal proceedings against De Puy which is Johnson & Johnson's orthopaedic branch and is investigating claims in relation to other types of hip implants.

Mr Walker said: “The hip resurfacing was designed with younger more active patients in mind; in fact we have had enquiries from people who are in their 30s and will now be looking at having additional surgery and may be left more disabled as a result.
 
“The recall is extremely worrying and upsetting for the thousands of patients in the UK who have had hip replacement surgery in the past few years with a De Puy ASR.  Patient safety should be the number one priority of everyone involved in healthcare but they have been seriously let down by De Puy.”

Amongst those affected is Eileen Thornton, 54, from Cardiff, who had both her hips resurfaced in 2007 with De Puy ASR components, but suffered complications which caused her years of pain.

She was told by doctors at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff that each hip should have a maximum eight weeks recovery time and that she would be able to live an active life afterwards. However Mrs Thornton is still suffering pain from her hip replacements three years on and is currently recovering from corrective surgery just over a month ago.

She was repeatedly told that her problems were routine and that she should exercise more but after two years of considerable pain doctors performed tests which confirmed that she was suffering from toxic metal elements in her blood stream.

Mrs Thornton said: “The past few years have been extremely difficult. I have been in immense pain with both my hips and hoped that the surgery would fix this. However the problems have not gone away and in fact seem to have been made worse. It’s really affected how I live my life and we’ve had holidays ruined because of my hip problems.

“My hips are now very uncomfortable and I have a limited range of movement. It has seriously affected my life at home and things will never be the same again. I find it difficult just to do simple things such as put on my shoes and socks, and doing tasks such as gardening or decorating. I also missed out on a new career because at the time I was offered the job I had to go in for further hip surgery.

“For years I have been in excruciating pain and have shed many tears. This is not what I was expecting when I initially went in for a hip replacement.”

De Puy’s ASR device was recalled in Australia in December 2009 but was not recalled in Britain until August 2010 despite a safety warning from The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (the UK agency responsible for ensuring that medical devices are safe) in May 2010 following advice from the National Hip Joint Registry.

It was found that the devices had a failure rate of 12-13 per cent five years on from the replacement.  Metal-on-metal resurfacing was hoped to increase the life of an implant for much longer which is why it was aimed at younger, more active patients.

The British Hip Society has also published advice to surgeons on how to deal with the issue which involves a programme of monitoring patients and if necessary carrying out corrective surgery.  Patients who have been fitted with an ASR device should undergo annual check-ups to monitor their metal ion levels in their blood and have an MRI.  The surgeon may then decide to carry out a revision procedure.

Mr Walker said: “Over 13,000 patients have had resurfacing procedures since 2003 and there are at least 1,600 patients who had the ASR device within this time.  At the moment we do not know the full extent of the problems as patients may not yet have developed or reported any problems.

“Hip replacement surgery is intended to improve a patient’s quality of life, especially as this device was designed for younger more active people. The failure rates for the ASR are very high and many patients have been left in extreme pain from hip replacements that were meant to help them.

“Through no fault of their own too many people are now having to go through further surgery to correct problems that should not have been allowed to happen - placing further strains on an already stretched health service.  We would hope that De Puy accept responsibility for the problems their devices have caused and provide assistance to the patients and health service.

“We urge anyone who has had a hip resurfacing and is experiencing pain to contact their surgeon as soon as possible to discuss what their next steps are.”

Have you been affected by a hip replacement failure? If you would like to talk to one of our experts about a possible compensation claim, call 0800 056 4110 or contact us online.

Alternatively, read more about making a metal hip replacement claim.