Overdue ban on the fitting of “toxic” metal-on-metal hip implants

Posted: 28/10/2013


It has been reported that using 'toxic' metal-on-metal hip replacements will be banned at NHS hospitals after investigations carried out by The Daily Telegraph revealed unacceptably high failure rates among 17,000 patients.

There have been concerns regarding the safety of metal-on-metal hips for some time with DePuy recalling its ASR hip prosthesis in August 2010 following staggeringly high revision rates – 49% at six years. Subsequent research into other models of metal-on-metal hips showed that it was not just those models manufactured by DePuy which seemed to be causing problems and last year the MHRA released a medical device alert warning about all metal on metal hips.

Now a series of investigations recently carried out by the The Daily Telegraph has uncovered widespread major problems, with failure rates for many of the products currently on the market rising above the acceptable standards. Following the outcome of the The Daily Telegraph’s investigations, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has released new guidelines. The advice from the health regulator is that the NHS should stop using any hip implants with failure rates higher than 5% at five years.

The problems identified with the metal-on-metal hips is that as the metal parts rub against each other microscopic shavings of metal may be released into the hip joint, which are absorbed by the surrounding tissue, causing a condition known as metallosis. This can cause extensive soft tissue damage, bone loss, local necrosis and ultimately failure of the hip replacement device.

Elise Bevan, a product liability specialist at Penningtons Manches LLP, is only too aware of the catastrophic effects these hips can have: “We have been alert for some time now to the problems caused by the metal-on-metal hip implants. Over the last two years we have been approached by an increasing number of people who were concerned that their metal-on-metal hip had failed earlier than expected. We felt that it was only a matter of time before the statistics reached levels to make the health regulators finally sit up and take notice.

“The new guidelines will mean that almost every metal-on-metal hip will be withdrawn from the market. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, it is disappointing that this is only happening now when the full scale of the problems has been acknowledged. As product liability lawyers, we have been alert to the issues for a while and attempted to bring them to the attention of the manufacturers. We currently represent a number of clients in claims for compensation against the manufacturers of the metal-on-metal hips.”


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