New York City Wright Medical Technology Metal Hip Implant Law Firm


Fundamentals of Joint Structure

The skeleton is the fundamental structure of the human body, but a skeleton cannot move without muscles and tendons. Muscles and tendons join the skeleton together, and the areas where bones meet are called joints. The most common types of joints in the body are called synovial joints, and they are composed of cartilage surrounded by ligaments and filled with synovial fluid. The joint provides a buffer between the bones to keep them from grinding together, and the strong ligaments help hold the joint and bone in place.

Why Do Joints Fail?

Just because the joint has a purpose, however, does not mean that it performs perfectly all the time. Joints fail for a variety of reasons. Like all biological substances, synovial fluid, ligaments, and bones are prone to degradation over time. This natural inclination can be exacerbated by any type of mechanical abnormality, trauma or arthritis. When the human body moves, each joint is designed to follow a certain path, but small deviations are not uncommon. Over time these deviations become larger and larger, and as the joint moves more and more out of its socket, damage to the structure of the joint occurs. This natural failure over time occurs more quickly in case of injury or with the onset of arthritis.

Treatments for Hip Joint Deterioration

Hip joint deterioration is one of the most common types of joint failure. The hip receives more wear and tear over the course of a lifetime than almost any joint, due to its dual role of providing stability while being one of the primary joints for ambulation. Hip joint deterioration is not a new phenomenon. Damaged and broken hips have been a common problem for thousands of years.

There are a variety of treatments for hip joint deterioration, and the appropriateness of each treatment is dependent upon how much damage has occurred to the joint and what treatments have been tried before. Available treatments include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, including over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen or naproxen
  • Corticosteroids to encourage the body’s natural healing abilities
  • Physical therapy, particularly therapies based on strength-building and stretching to encourage the joint to follow its natural path and provide structural support through improved musculature
  • Arthroplasty, commonly known as hip replacement surgery

What is a Hip Implant?

In case of severe arthritis or a fractured hip, an implant is often the only treatment option with any chance to restore full range of motion. Hip replacement surgery goes back to the 1940s, with the modern method and design first employed in 1952. The modern method of hip replacement is accomplished by using acrylic bone cement to attach a one piece stem-and-head, a ball cap, and an acetabular cup. This multi-piece design approximates the natural movement of the joint, allowing individuals to return to their daily activities.

Historically, only the stem and head of the design were fashioned of metal (usually stainless steel), with a ceramic cap and either polyethylene or Teflon acetabular cap. But device manufacturers designed metal-on-metal implants to replace these methods. The advantage of metal-on-metal was to strengthen the cap and acetabular cap, reducing the likelihood the device would fracture if subjected to trauma.

Causes of Failure of Metal-on-Metal Hip Implant

Though possibly more resistant to fracture caused by trauma, metal-on-metal hip implants pose a number of significant issues that the older, polyethylene based implants did not. Many of these problems were unforeseen, but were not unforeseeable, if more time had been spent in the development stage on potential problems that might arise.

The most common causes of failure for metal-on-metal hip implants are:

  • The release of small metal ions when the metal of the cap rubs against the metal ball; these small metal particles can cause corrosion and infection, including sepsis
  • Fracture caused by incorrect placement of the implant during surgery
  • Design flaw, including modular design to allow for different leg and hip length, and to accommodate movement of the hip implant to better align with the body’s natural movement
  • Failure caused by incorrect manufacturing; certain manufacturers have a much higher failure rate due to errors in the manufacturing process

Signs of Trouble

If you or someone you love has received a metal-on-metal hip implant, it is important you are aware of signs the implant is failing or that breakdown of the implant is causing significant health issues. The most important signs to watch for include:

  • Changes in hearing or vision
  • Depression or other behavioral changes
  • Difficulties with concentration or memory
  • Unexplained weight gain

Any of these symptoms could be a sign of significant health impairment, and could be related to issues with the implant that could cause long-term disability or even death. It is important you visit a physician as soon as possible to determine whether those signs were impacted by the ill performance of a hip implant.

The courts have recognized that certain manufacturers have failed in quality control in regards to metal-on-metal hip implants, with a recent 4.5 million dollar judgment in California against Wright Medical Technology. The company is also under investigation for potential design flaws that make failure of the implant much more likely.

If you are suffering due to hip implant failure, it is important that you determine whether the issue is due to faulty manufacturing, surgical issues, design defect, or some other cause. Please, fill out our Free Hip Implant Case Evaluation, or you can contact Finz & Finz, P.C., toll free at (855) TOP-FIRM for additional information regarding how to make the proper determination regarding the status of your hip implant.