Modern, all-metal hip implants appear no more effective than traditional implants and may be less safe, according to a new report, a finding that could hurt orthopedic companies that make the devices and accelerate lawsuits. The report, published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal, found that patients who received so-called metal-on-metal implants were more likely to require repeat surgery than those who received traditional implants.
Every year, more than 700,000 joint replacements are performed in the United States, of which some 270,000 are hip replacements, according to the report. The materials used in a replacement hip's ball-and-socket structure can vary to include metal, ceramic or plastic. Metal on metal implants were supposed to be more durable than earlier metal on polyethylene implants. But over the past few years, reports have emerged that the metal implants fail at a greater rate than traditional implants.
Last year, Johnson & Johnson's DePuy Orthopaedics Inc unit recalled its metal ASR hip system after it failed at a higher-than-expected rate. Some patients experienced pain, swelling, joint dislocation and even systemic damage caused by toxic levels of metal ions. Professor Art Sedrakyan of Weill Cornell Medical College said that while the analysis is preliminary, it indicates that patients implanted with a metal-on-metal device are doubly at risk of requiring a repeat procedure.