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Metal-On-Metal Hip Implant Group Action Claims

Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have been fitted with poorly regulated and potentially dangerous hip replacement devices.

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Thousands worldwide were fitted with poorly regulated and potentially dangerous hip replacement devices that have been confirmed to have a high rate of wear, which leads to potentially serious damage to the surrounding tissue and other areas of the body. Amongst others, DePuy, a subsidiary company of Johnson & Johnson, manufactured the ASR / Corail Metal-on-Metal device that is estimated to have been used in thousands of UK patients in the last 10 years.

The devices themselves are made from cobalt-chromium alloy rather than the traditional ceramic or polyethylene, of which both the head and socket components are made from the metal (hence Metal-on-Metal device).

The Problem

When well fitted, well designed, and well lubricated with joint fluid, the Metal-on-Metal implants have shown some of the lowest rates of wear, which is what made them so popular in the first place. In fact, Metal-on-Metal (or MoM for short) show a greater range of movement in the hip with better stability, and less chance of dislocation. However, if any of the factors above fall out of kilter, potentially serious problems can occur.

If problems occur, the Metal-on-Metal can wear down at an accelerated rate, causing debris in the joint which can lead to adverse reactions to the bone and the surrounding soft tissue; notably soft tissue necrosis, which is the death of the cells in the tissue caused by the damage from the debris. There are also serious concerns that they could leak trace amounts of metal that could be absorbed in to the blood stream, which could in turn cause metal poisoning, and the possibility of an increased risk of cancer.

These adverse reactions appear to have not been taken in to account by the manufacturers of MoM hip implants, which is not only down to inadequate safety testing, but also not enough regulation when it comes to medical devices. As an example, drugs must be tested and certified by a governing body, whereas medical devices like these can be approved by whichever body the company chooses - which in this case is the British Standards Institute. Essentially, no real research has been conducted prior to the provision of these devices, which is like manufacturing a new car and not testing it to make sure it works safely and properly.

Advice from the MHRA and the NHS

MHRA and NHS advice has confirmed that people with MoM implants may need annual checks up for the rest of their lives to ensure patients do not suffer any adverse affects that the devices can cause.

Recognised Symptoms and Warning Signs

You should speak to a medical professional as soon as possible if you begin to exhibit any of the following potential signs or symptoms associated with a failing device:

  • Pain in the groin, hip or leg
  • Swelling at or near the hip joint
  • A limp or problems walking
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Numbness or weakness
  • Changes in vision or hearing
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling cold
  • Weight gain

Whilst these symptoms do not confirm your device is failing, given what we know about the devices being defective for some patients, it is best to seek medical advice immediately if you have any of the associated symptoms or warning signs above.

Your Right to Claim

Your right to claim is under the Consumer Protection Act 1987. This can apply so long as we can prove that you received a defective or dangerous device that we can prove was faulty from the moment it came in to the market - which we believe we can prove.

The time limit to claim in general is three years from the date that you became aware that you had been fitted with a defective medical device. For most people this could be the date from when you received medical attention following problems with the hip, or from being informed that the device you have inside of you could cause you problems following MHRSA and NHS reports.

However there is also a 10 year long-stop limitation from the date that devices were first brought to the market, which could mean your limitation to claim is imminent, and we recommend you seek legal advice immediately!

Where You Stand

Patients with a MoM implant with a femur head of 36mm or greater (often referred to as a large implant) should be reviewed annually for life, which includes tests to measure the level of metallic particles in the blood. Any patients exhibiting any of the warning signs or associated symptoms should have a MARS (Metal Artefact Reduction Sequence), MRI or ultrasound scan, or for any asymptomatic patients who show signs of high metal ion levels in the blood stream.

Most people will be able to live out the rest of their lives without needing any revision surgery - but with the damage that can be caused by a failing MoM device, revision surgery will likely be necessary. Not only could you therefore face the inconvenience of checkups for the rest of your life annually, as well as the associated worry that your device could fail, but you may need further surgery which would have otherwise been unnecessary had the MoM devices not been used.

How Can Metal 'Poisoning' Affect Me?

The word poisoning is somewhat misleading according to medical reports, as it indicates you will be suffering from some form of immediate problem. The conclusions from different sources are varied - some say that only local problems can be caused by the high level of metal toxicity in the blood stream, whereas others have confirmed that, in a small number of cases where high numbers of metallic ions in the blood stream have been found, problems can occur elsewhere in the body such as the heart, nervous system, and thyroid gland.

However, the level of toxicity in the bloodstream is nevertheless important as it can be used to determine the degree of wear in the implanted device. A Metal Artefact Reduction Sequence (MARS) test can determine the level of metal in the bloodstream and can be used in turn to work out the severity of the wear to the implant.

Making a Claim

Our specialist Group Action Lawyers are here to help you with your claim. Call our free claims helpline on 0800 634 75 75 today for the advice you need to determine whether you have a claim to make, or complete a contact form below.

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