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February 1, 2012

Toxic Bionics

by: Donald A. Migliori

It’s remarkable when you think about just how many people we trust with our lives each day. We trust the banks with our money. We trust schools with our children. Maybe above all, we trust the manufacturers of medical drugs and devices with our well-being and that of the people we love. What happens when that trust is seemingly betrayed? Thousands of people who have suffered life-altering injuries and insurmountable medical bills resulting from a failed medical device could tell you. It’s devastating.

As you may already be aware, metal-on-metal hip replacements are among the medical devices currently under intense scrutiny. When manufacturers, such as DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., introduced metal-on-metal hip replacement implants, the hope of the medical community and patients was that these devices would be more durable and trustworthy than the existing metal-on-plastic implants.

What has been discovered, however, is that these implants have experienced a higher-than-expected failure rate, failing after only a few years rather than the more typical expected age of 15+ years. Big difference. Imagine if, one day out of every week, your car fails to start. You’re late to work 20 percent of the time. You get fired. You spend hundreds or even thousands on repairs and maintenance that shouldn’t have to be addressed for years. You’re confused because what you thought was a good investment in transportation and safety turned out to be a piece of junk, a lemon. Would you say something? Why is something that you pay to have put into your body any different? Couple the increasing need for corrective surgeries because of faulty hip replacements with other health problems and medical expenses, and the problem with the failure rate of metal hip replacements is a big problem.

According to a recent article featured in The New York Times, artificial metal hip implants are the “most widespread medical implant failure in decades.” Highlighted in the article is Tom Dougherty of Groveland, Ill., who claims the medical bills related to his failed metal-on-metal hip replacement device are five times more than what he paid for his house. At only 55 years of age, he is currently bound to a chair and suffering severe financial burden. Unfortunately, he is not alone in his experience.

Thousands more have reported the need to undergo repeat surgery shortly after their initial hip implant, and numerous others have experienced serious and even crippling complications caused by metal debris generated by the metal parts grinding against one another that can be toxic and damaging to surrounding tissue. Pain at the site of the implant, swelling, dislocation and fractures around the implant have been other common complaints.

If you have a metal-on-metal hip implant that has prematurely failed, think about that car. Fight for the engine that is your body. You could have hundreds of thousands of miles left.