A San Diego resident recently claimed that his metal-on-metal hip replacement, made by the company DePuy, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, has poisoned him, KGTV reports.
Tony Stauffer, 62, underwent hip replacement surgery four years ago and told the news source that the device was supposed to last 30 years. When he finally recovered from six months of rehabilitation, he thought the pain was over and he could continue his active lifestyle. However, he claims that less than three years later, a different pain returned and he noticed swelling in his hip.
"My hair started to fall out. My fingernails became brittle. I got skin rashes," Stauffer explained to the news provider.
Shortly after he noticed his symptoms, he heard that DePuy was recalling his metal hip. The company stated that the joint movement created metal to flake into the bodies of patients, causing metal poisoning – the culprit for the pain and swelling in Stauffer's hip and surrounding muscles.
The news source reports that approximately 93,000 people received DePuy hip implants around the world before the recall.
The artificial hip joint was fast-tracked to approval thanks to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's 510(k) program designed to streamline the approval process for devices that are "substantially equivalent" to a predecessor, explained Reuters.
According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, metal-on-metal hip arthroplasties, while growing in frequency can result in cobalt and chromium ions in the blood and urine of these patients as a result of the wear and tear on the device over time. This can result in metallosis, or the formation of giant cells and fibrosis in tissues surrounding the prosthetic joint.
In two cases of metallosis found in patients in Alaska, patients reported many symptoms 12 to 18 months after their hip replacement surgeries. One complained of headaches, anxiety, irritability, tinnitus and hearing loss, which then escalated to pain interrupting sleep, hip creaking, hand tremors, slow cognition, poor memory and diminished coordination. The other complained of memory loss, hearing loss, groin pain, rashes, vertigo, mental fog, rashes and breathlessness. Both men, age 49 at the time of their hip replacement surgeries, reported improved symptoms after revision surgery.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services advises that healthcare professionals should communicate these risks with patients and develop a personalized plan for symptom monitoring and possible revision surgery if metal ions begin to accumulate in the blood.
According to the Mayo Clinic, hip replacement surgeries involve replacing a diseased hip joint with an artificial prosthesis. These artificial joints are made as ball and socket devices, with the ball usually made of metal or ceramic and the socket liner made of plastic, ceramic or metal. The devices are designed to resist wear, degradation and corrosion. They are also created to be biocompatible, or accepted by the body.
Typically, hip replacements are performed on patients who have joint damage due to an injury or arthritis. The artificial joint, along with a regimen of rehabilitation, can help many patients restore a full range of motion and function of the hip while also relieving pain.
The Mayo Clinic states that this surgery is generally regarded as a safe procedure, but complications can occur with any surgery. Risks associated with hip replacement surgery include blood clots, infections, dislocations, fractures, change in leg length, joint stiffening and wear and tear elapsed over time.
In most cases, complications can be successfully treated. For example, infections can usually be treated with antibiotics, while doctors often prescribe blood-thinning medications to prevent clots and exercise that increases blood flow can also reduce the risk.