Ceramic Hip Implants

Hip replacement is a very successful orthopedic procedure. More than 90 percent of patients are relieved of their pain and regain their normal mobility. On average, implanted hips can last as long as 20 to 25 years.

After the implant wears out, revision surgery must be done. This surgery is more difficult to perform and the outcome is usually less satisfactory than the original surgery. One of the most common problems with hip implants is that the materials they are made of wear out. Traditionally, hip implants have been made of metal and polyethylene plastic. The implant fits into the body in two parts, simulating the formation of the natural hip.

The top part is a metal hip socket. The bottom part, attached to a stem inserted into the top of the thigh bone, is a metal ball. Between the metal parts is a plastic cup-shaped liner, allowing the ball to rotate smoothly within the socket. It is this plastic cup that is most subject to wear.

Hip implants also have been made of metal only, but the friction of the metal parts causes metal debris to shed into the body. This can result in effects on the heart, the nervous system and the thyroid gland. The U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA) ordered 21 manufacturing companies to conduct studies to determine the risk of the metal-on-metal designs on May 6, 2011.

The minute particles of metal debris can also cause inflammation and possibly infection and loss of tissue and bone in the area of the implant.

Why are Ceramic Hip Implants Used?

Ceramic parts have been developed to address the problems of wear and scattered debris. The ceramic implant is very hard and very smooth. According to some surgeons as well as scientific data, the properties of ceramic implants indicate they should last a lot longer than the metal or plastic parts of the previous implants.

However, with all artificial hips, there are problems with ceramic hip implants as well. There are two main problems with ceramic-on-ceramic hip implants:

  • Catastrophic failure – in a small number of patients, the ceramic hip implants have fractured. The implants must be removed and revision surgery is required. The manufacturing process has been improved and the risk of catastrophic failure has been reduced to about one in 25,000 implants.
  • Lack of long-term data – since the use of ceramic hip implants is relatively new, no one knows how long they will last.

On June 14, 2011, the FDA approved the first ceramic-on-metal total hip replacement system. The Pinnacle CoMplete Acetabular Hip system is the first to combine a ceramic ball and a metal socket. As a condition of FDA approval, the manufacturer, DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., will conduct a postmarket study. The study will monitor patients receiving the new system for adverse events and metal ion concentrations in the blood.

DePuy was ordered by the FDA in August 2010 to recall two of its metal-on-metal hip replacement systems, the DePuy ASR™ XL Acetabular and ASR™ Hip Resurfacing systems. The systems were recalled because of early failure of the implant and metal ion debris that scattered throughout the body.

Contact one of our defective hip implant attorneys today if you wish to seek compensation for a failed ceramic hip implant.

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