October 26, 2012 — Smith & Nephew Inc. is facing a lawsuit regarding failure of the Birmingham hip resurfacing implant. The lawsuit, which was filed on October 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that the product has a defective design. The plaintiff in the matter, Cheryl Elmore, alleges that the defective hip implant caused her to suffer chronic pain, hip fractures, and multiple revision surgeries. Her husband is also seeking damages for loss of consortium.
The Birmingham hip implant is a metal-on-metal hip resurfacing system created by Smith & Nephew, Inc. The product has been on the U.S. market since 2006. The design consists of two metal parts — a metal acetabular cup, in which a metal femoral head pivots when the patient walks.
According to the lawsuit, Mrs. Elmore originally underwent hip resurfacing in October 2008, and was implanted with the Birmingham implant. At her two-week check-up, she suffered from loosening of the hip joint, and underwent a revision surgery to adjust the size of the components.
One year later, Mrs. Elmore again suffered from a loosening of the hip joint and a “popping” sensation. By February 2010, the complications had worsened to a “grinding” sensation in her hip. She also suffered from progressively worsening pain in her hip joint.
Further check-ups in 2010 showed increasing levels of metal ions in her bloodstream. One of the most serious complications of metal-on-metal hip implants is that the metal parts can grind together, shed particles of cobalt and chromium into the body, which can contribute to toxic metal poisoning (metallosis). She also had collection around the hip implant.
In December 2010, her doctors recommended yet another revision surgery. She was implanted with another Smith & Nephew implant. Multiple revision surgeries can be very traumatic for a patient’s body, and Mrs. Elmore has suffered repeated bone fractures in her hip. These fractures are very painful, and she now requires narcotic painkillers. She can only walk with the assistance of a cane or wheelchair.
Recently, researchers who studied failure rates of resurfacing hip implants recommended that women should not undergo hip resurfacing procedures because there is a high risk of complications. They said the risk of hip implant failure was “unacceptably high.”
Other studies have linked metal-on-metal hip implants to a wide variety of complications, and a higher failure rate than metal-on-plastic or ceramic devices. These complications include tissue damage, bone loss, pain, inflammation, loosening of the hip joint, pseudotumors (non-cancerous soft tissue growths), metallosis (metal poisoning), and other complications that may require revision surgery.