March 14, 2012 — Experts are calling for a ban of metal-on-metal hip implants, after a new study in the Lancet found that metal-on-metal hip implants are much more likely to fail compared to other types of hip implants. Other studies have found that metal-on-metal hip implants can leak toxic chemicals into the bloodstream, which may cause cancer and degenerative heart disease. Though the use of these implants has declined in Europe, metal-on-metal implants are still used extensively in the United States.
In the study, British researchers looked at data on more than 400,000 people who had received a hip replacement. The data was compiled in the National Joint Registry of England and Wales between 2003 and 2011. The researchers found that 31,000 people had received metal-on-metal hip implants. In the United States, around 500,000 people have metal-on-metal hip implants.
The researchers found that the metal-on-metal hip implants had a 6.2% failure rate after 5 years, compared with 2.3% for ceramic-on-ceramic, and 1.7% for metal-on-plastic hip implants. The researchers also found that hip implants with larger heads tended to fail more quickly. They also found that failure rates were four times higher for women, especially those implanted with large sizes.
Another study published in February 2012 found that metal implants made of chromium-cobalt could leak charged ionic particles into the bloodstream. Research has found that ionic chromium is a carcinogen, and cobalt can cause cardiomyopathy, a degenerative heart muscle disease. Experts now recommend that people with these implants should have yearly blood tests to monitor for dangerous metals seeping into their body. The British Medical Journal and the BBC teamed up to investigate toxic side effects of metal-on-metal implants. Some people have suffered damage to muscle and bones that has caused permanent disability.
Experts are now calling for the metal-on-metal hip implants to be banned, because there are better alternatives. The metal-on-metal design is simply not worth the risk.
Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called for manufacturers of the hip replacements to conduct safety reviews. In 2010, DePuy Orthopaedics recalled a metal hip implant after it was linked to high failure rates.
Many experts are alarmed at the lax regulations that allowed these hip implants to be approved without adequate safety data. The metal-on-metal hip implants were approved without pre-marketing safety studies. Because failures with these products take a long time to develop, by the time health officials became aware that metal-on-metal hip implants had more side effects than alternative implants, hundreds of thousands of people had already been implanted with the devices.
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