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New hip implants have high fail rates, safety issues

New Orleans readers may remember the product recall issued by Johnson & Johnson two years ago for their all-metal artificial hips, often cited as one of the most expensive medical apparatus failures on record.

The follow-up prosthetic device they created, a metal-on-metal hip mechanism, may be heading down the same road. There are 1,600 product liability lawsuits pending against the product, and doctors estimate another 10 percent of the devices will fail within the next two to three years.

Considered more durable than their ceramic counterparts, metal-on-metal implants were expected to last as long as 15 years. However, doctors are concerned with the health problems that can result from high levels of chromium and cobalt in blood, which can lead to cardiovascular, renal, thyroid and neurological problems. After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned of potential problems, the percentage of surgeons using the implants went down from 16 percent to 10 percent, and will likely continue to decrease.

Of the 500,000 patients nationwide with metal-on-metal implants, approximately 37,000 received the previous device and 150,000 received the new product. The manufacturer has set aside funds to settle lawsuits arising from the recalled product, but has decided to fight lawsuits stemming from their new product. Therefore, even though people have similar complaints of limited mobility, pain, swelling and dislocation, they face an additional burden find justice and relief for the defective medical devices.

There are no definite numbers on the product's failure rate, but many doctors believe the number will rise in coming years. A panel convened by the FDA to study problems associated with metal-on-metal implants concluded the risks were too high for surgeons to use the device.

If using a product in a proper fashion injures a consumer, they often have the right to pursue a claim for compensation. Filing a products liability lawsuit can make compensation available to cover medical expenses, pain and suffering, and, in some cases, even ensure the company provides funds to cover surgery to replace the faulty prosthetic joints. Such an action can provide the relief and peace of mind hip-replacement patients deserve.

Source: Fox News, "As lawsuits climb, J&J may have hip trauma," July 12, 2012

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