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Remedy Is Elusive As Metallic Hips Fail At A Fast Rate

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As surgeons here sliced through tissue surrounding a failed artificial hip in a 53-year-old man, they discovered what looked like a biological dead zone. There were matted strands of tissue stained gray and black; a large strip of muscle near the hip no longer contracted.

Dr. Young-Min Kwon, the lead orthopedic surgeon on the operation, said the damage was more extensive than tests had indicated and might be permanent. “The prognosis is guarded,” Dr. Kwon said.

Similar scenes are playing out at hospitals nationwide as a growing number of patients seek to have faulty metal-on-metal artificial hips removed and replaced. More than a decade ago, some researchers had warned that the hips shed tiny pieces of metallic debris that posed potential health threats to patients. But those warnings were not heeded, and now doctors and patients face a growing public health problem as one of the country’s biggest medical device failures unfolds.


All orthopedic implants, regardless of their composition, shed debris as they wear. But researchers say they believe that the particles released by some all-metal hips pose a special threat because scavenger cells dispatched by the body to neutralize the debris convert it into biologically active metallic ions. In some patients, a chain reaction begins that can destroy tissue and muscle.

For researchers like Dr. Kwon, the challenge is to identify both those patients most at risk and the best ways to monitor them.

So far, only a small fraction of the estimated 500,000 people in this country who received an all-metal hip over the last decade have suffered injuries. But studies suggest that those numbers will grow and that tissue destruction is occurring silently in some patients who have no obvious symptoms like pain.

If the health system collapses a lot of people will be left in limbo, will this prove to be a litigation timebomb? Looks like this could prove a very costly experiment.

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More than a decade ago, some researchers had warned that the hips shed tiny pieces of metallic debris that posed potential health threats to patients.

I thought a century of engine development might have given someone an idea that this could happen.

Like to see Kwik-Fit do an oil change on one of those.

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A 74 friend of mine had a new knee fitted and it snappd - yes, snapped. The surgeon said he had never seen anything like it before.

It caused her all sorts of pain, infection, more pain, more infection and lots of time waiting for it to be replaced.

On the positive, at least they can do hips and knees and here, currently, in the UK people do get it done on the NHS.

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Not quite sure what the HPC angle is in this story; I thought HIPS might refer to House Information Pack but obviously not.

Oh I get it, Hip Price Crash?

More demand for bungalows?

There's clearly an economic angle as hip replacements aren't exactly cheap. It's it around £50k a time in the UK? Hell of a lot of money wasted if they need replacing after a only a few years, plus all the tests that will need to be run... Luckily we aren't on a austerity drive.

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  • 4 months later...


The government's health regulator has advised that patients who have undergone large head metal-on-metal hip replacements should be monitored annually for life.

The new advice comes as a joint BBC Newsnight and British Medical Journal investigation reports that problems with such devices have been long known, but no action taken to block their use.

All-metal hips have a high failure rate and rubbing between the ball and cup can cause metal to break off, seeping into tissue and causing complications.

Looks like the cost is coming to the NHS.

I wonder what the long term costs of this will be for the UK taxpayer?

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