It would be natural to assume that if you met someone with metal debris floating around in their body you might be face-to-face with a wounded veteran from the fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, tens of thousands of Americans carrying these dangerous particles around are everyday people who are victims of metal hip implant operations in which these medical devices have failed.
Billions of dollars in compensation are now being offered to these victims in settlements from large companies like Johnson & Johnson and Biomet that are facing huge numbers of lawsuits, according to court documents.
These victims claim they were essentially poisoned by the metal particles that flaked off from hip implants that were supposed to speed them toward a normal, healthy life.
The failure rates of these devices are alarming. One metal hip implant system that was the subject of a huge national Class 1 Recall by the Food and Drug Administration, the DePuy ASR system, was initially reported to be failing at rates of up to 13 percent.
Later research and reports from other countries put the figure much higher, up to nearly 40 percent.
The major problem with this metal debris is a medical condition called metallosis, an internal infection which overwhelms the body’s immune system and causes intense pain and suffering.
Metallosis can cause swelling, bone deterioration, destruction of body tissues and host of other serious problems that affect victims both physically and emotionally.
The symptoms of metallosis are frightening, because some of them are life-threatening:
- Hip pain
- High blood pressure
- Memory problems
- Concentration problems
- Hearing problems
- Vision problems, including blindness
- Heart problems, including hear failure
The FDA, which issued a National Health Advisory about its concerns with metal-on-metal (MoM) systems, included this advisory information:
Patients who receive MoM hip implants should also pay close attention to changes in their general health including new or worsening symptoms outside their hip. If they are referred to a doctor to evaluate new conditions, they should let their physician know they have a MoM hip implant. There have been some case reports and articles in the medical literature that suggest patients with a MoM hip implant may have certain symptoms or illnesses elsewhere in the body (systemic reactions). These include:
- General hypersensitivity reaction (skin rash)
- Neurological changes including sensory changes (auditory, or visual impairments)
- Psychological status change (including depression or cognitive impairment)
- Renal function impairment
- Thyroid dysfunction (including neck discomfort, fatigue, weight gain or feeling cold