For those with arthritis and other diseases of the joints, replacement surgeries can improve quality of life and mobility. In 2007, almost 800,000 knee and hip replacements were performed. It is estimated that more than 750,000 Americans have replacement surgery on their hips, knees, shoulders and other joints each year. While joint replacement surgery can offer improvements in mobility and quality of life, a British registry recently discovered high failure rates in a commonly used orthopedic implant.
The National Joint Registry for England and Wales (NJR), established in 2002, works to define, improve and maintain quality care for patients receiving hip, knee and ankle joint replacement surgery. As part of its mission, the NJR collects and analyzes data relative to joint replacements. The registry also tracks failure and success rates of orthopedic prosthetics.
Reviewing radiological and clinical results of nearly 200 patients with hip resurfacing, the NJR discovered that the DePuy Articular Surface Replacement (ASR) implant had higher failure rates than other similar devices. In patients who had the all-metal device implanted six years ago, about 29 percent have had the implant replaced. Typically, artificial hips require replacement every 15 years.
For the ASR and other metal-on-metal hip replacement devices, the problem rests in the material components and design. For these implants, the metal cup slides against a metal ball. Over time, metal particles will wear off the device and enter the bloodstream. These particles can damage tissue and bone in all parts of the body, including the heart, kidney and nerves.
In light of the British study data, the DePuy ASR hip system was recalled in August of 2011.
Manufacturers have a duty to make products that are safe. When they do not, these manufacturers may be held liable for the harms their products cause. Over 437 million medical devices were recalled in 2010, because of their potential harm to patients; however, recalls do not mitigate the injuries, pain and suffering that products can cause trusting patients.