Hip replacement surgery has become a fairly common procedure in the U.S., with more than 193,000 total hip replacement procedures performed annually. Well-known people ranging from 41st president George Bush to rocker Eddie Van Halen have had the surgery, and continue to lead successful lives.
But even under the best circumstances, hip replacements can wear out, sometimes requiring subsequent surgeries 15-20 years later. These second procedures, known as "revision surgeries" are often less successful, and for an increasingly large number of people, they're coming too soon after their initial hip replacement.
Last August, a leading hip replacement manufacturer, DePuy, announced that it was recalling two of its replacement hips, because they required revision surgeries at an unacceptably high rate. One study in Britain found 21 percent of the DePuy hips required revision surgery after four years, and nearly half (49 percent) required such surgery after just six years. For its part, DePuy (a division of Johnson & Johnson) claims that the revision rate after five years is only 12 to 13 percent.
Also troubling are reports that certain metal-on-metal hip replacement systems (including those recalled by DePuy) produce microscopic (or even atomic-sized) debris as the metal head (which replaces the head of the femur, or thigh bone) rubs against the metal cup (which replaces the hip socket). These tiny metal shavings can show up as elevated levels of chromium and cobalt in the blood, and can damage the soft tissue (muscles and tendons) that surround the hip joint. One patient recovering from just such a revision surgery told the New York Times that the tissue damage felt like "fire" in his body.
With revision surgeries becoming increasingly common, anyone who has experienced problems with an artificial hip-or even other unexplained medical issues, which may be related-should contact a doctor to discuss whether their current hip replacement requires revision surgery. Such surgeries are typically more difficult than initial hip replacements, and so should not be undertaken lightly.
They may also be expensive, so anyone who is considering revision surgery should also discuss their situation with an experienced attorney, who may be able to obtain compensation for the costs associated with the surgery and recovery.
Hip maker DePuy has recalled two popular hip replacement products, after research showed unacceptably high failure rates, leading to pain and additional surgeries for patients.