The most common symptoms of hip failure include severe pain, aching and swelling in the hip area. Upon examination, doctors will often find that these symptoms started due to the release of metal particles that can damage the surrounding tissue.
What if I have a metal-on-metal hip but do not have any problems right now?
If you have a metal-on-metal hip but no symptoms of hip failure, you should keep yourself informed. Metal-on-metal effects are still being studied, and more information will continue to come out.
This month, The Lancet reported a case study of a 55-year-old German man who had been diagnosed with severe heart failure caused by cardiomyopathy. He was deaf and almost blind. He also had a fever, hypothyroidism, and reflux oesophagitis. The doctor suspected cobalt intoxication based on these problems and the fact that his medical history indicated he had undergone hip replacement surgery a few years back. The radiograph of his hip showed evidence of metal debris. He also had enlarged lymph nodes on his left hip. A blood test confirmed that the levels were high, and he underwent revision surgery soon after.
Upon examining the explanted devices, doctors found damaged areas of the chromium and cobalt femoral head. They concluded that the high cobalt levels were due to the metal wear on the hip device. After revision surgery, his cobalt and chromium concentrations decreased, and the patient stabilized and everything but his hearing and vision improved.
Importantly, according to the publication, the symptoms the patient reported did not include hip pain or swelling. The doctor made the diagnosis based on the known effects of cobalt intoxication.
It is important to note that the scientific effects of metal on the body are still inconclusive. This man’s case may be an isolated event. Regardless, staying alert and receiving needed care is an important step to staying healthy.
So What Do I Do?
Bring up any concerns with your doctor. If you have not discussed monitoring your metal-on-metal device with your doctor, we suggest you make an appointment to do so.
Recently, the FDA released guidelines for physicians to follow when monitoring metal-on-metal hip recipients. Those guidelines identified various imaging tests that can be useful for doctors to identify problems. X-ray imaging was not listed as a reliable way to detect metal-on-metal damage, so do not assume your doctor is monitoring your device if he or she is only taking x-rays!
In addition to the imaging tests, the FDA recommends that metal-on-metal patients receive blood tests that record metal ion levels in the body. Although the FDA concluded there is not sufficient evidence that blood tests are needed for patients who do not have symptoms of hip failure, we recommend that anyone with a metal-on-metal device requests these tests. We have personally seen many cases in which high ion levels were recorded long before symptoms of hip failure presented. Additionally, a study published last year in the British Medical Journal found that high metal ion levels predicted hip device failure, even in symptomless patients.
Should I get an attorney if I do not have symptoms?
You should at least talk with one. There are statutes of limitations on product liability claims that can bar your case regardless of its merit. Our firm is pursuing these cases throughout the country. Our attorneys and staff are extremely knowledgeable and can answer any questions or concerns you may have. Contact us for a free consultation before it is too late to pursue your case.