Artificial hip recall

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - We all know what to do when we get a recall notice for our car, but what about when it's a hip? Some metal artificial hips have been recalled. The question is do you have surgery again - even if you're feeling fine, or do nothing, and run the risk that you're one of the few who will have complications? One of Richmond's top orthopedic surgeons weighs in.

There's no doubt about it. Hip replacements have given millions of Americans like Ila Lewis a second chance at an active life. But there is growing concern that one type of hip replacement -- called metal on metal -- is failing faster than artificial hips made of other materials.

In this type of hip -- both the ball and socket are metal.

"Those hips were going to last me 20 years, or so I was told," Lewis said.

But just years after Ila's first surgery -- she had to have both hips replaced again.

"I was experiencing a 102 fever and pain in my right hip - much more painful than what sent me to have my hip done in the first place," Lewis said.

One model, made by DePuy, the ASR-XL, was recalled 18 months ago because of a high early failure rate.

And so many people have these hips, that law firms --- like Glasser & Glasser, in Norfolk, Virginia --- have special malpractice divisions, dealing just with this problem.

Dr. David Miller, at Ortho Virginia, here in Richmond is one of the most sought after orthopedic surgeons in the state. He prefers to use the ceramic ball and joint hip replacements, over the metal on metal. Here's the problem, once put in, the metal is more durable, but tiny particles of cobalt and chromium can be shed into the blood stream, as the joints wear.

So - people with these recalled DuPuy hips, should have their blood tested regularly to look for any signs of high metal levels.

"If the particle level is greater than 7 parts per billion, then the individual might need to have a repeat draw, 3 months later," said Dr. Miller.

Elevated blood metal levels can cause crippling - even fatal injuries...but it's very rare. Just because you have one of these questionable hips, there's no immediate reason to have another surgery to replace them.

"If you're asymptomatic - and you're radiographs are fine - just a yearly follow-up is all you need, and that's the case for the vast majority of these patients," Miller said.

Ceramic artificial hips are now being promoted as being far more durable than other models --- the one problem with ceramic: a small number of patients complain that they make a noise, and tend to squeak.

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