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Metal On Metal Hip Replacements Should Be Banned: British Experts Warn About Potential Problems
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Metal on Metal Hip Replacements Should Be Banned: British Experts Warn About Potential Problems

British experts and US health agencies are expressing growing concern about the safety and realistic life expectancy of one particular type of hip replacement option. One US company has already recalled its version after their model was linked to a higher than average failure rate, but both the British and US experts are warning that the problem extends way beyond one particular brand and that all of the metal on metal hips should be greatly reevaluated. In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration asked the US makers of hip and other joint replacement models to conduct thorough safety studies. In 2010, DePuy, which is part of Johnson and Johnson recalled its metal on metal hip because of high failure rates.

The British experts who have been calling for a ban on this particular type of artificial joint are only a few in the industry that have had questions about them for years. The majority of hip replacement surgeries are performed using plastic or ceramic joints instead of metal. In the UK, the recommendation has been made for yearly blood tests to monitor the patient for signs of migrating or leaking metals that can adversely affect health. In addition, the patients are cautioned to monitor for signs of impending failure including pain, swelling or loss of mobility in the area.

Using data for over 400,000 hip replacements from the National Joint Registry of England and Wales for surgeries performed between 2003 and 2011, researchers compared the types and the outcome for the patients. More than thirty thousand of the surgeries used the metal on metal hip replacement option. After five years nearly six percent of those patients needed an additional surgery to either fix or to totally replace their hip compared to just over 1.7% to 2.3% for either the ceramic or plastic options.

Doctors expect most hip replacements to last just about ten years but there are other factors that could lead to damages or failure happening sooner. In addition, rates of hip replacement failures might not reflect the full picture as some patients do not report symptoms they are having or may deal with the pain and loss of mobility through other means rather than face a secondary surgery.

In the US, the FDA is asking for increased safety studies for hip replacement options but have also expressed concern that the problem could extend to other joint replacement types including knees and shoulders. The research is being published in the medical journal, the Lancet.


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