Failing Artificial Hips Will Cost Us Billions
Tens of thousands of US patients could face failing implants
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2011 1:45 PM CST
A patient holds an X-ray of his pelvis and hips on June 9, 2009, in Palm Beach Fla. Doctors discovered that a piece of metal on the prosthetic snapped and was scraping out the inside of his femur.   (AP Photo/Steve Mitchell)

(Newser) – In the coming years, tens of thousands of US patients could face operations to replace artificial hip implants that are failing prematurely—and the cost could reach billions for taxpayers, insurers, employers, and others. In an extensive look at the problem, the New York Times calls it “the most widespread medical implant failure in decades.” More than 5,000 lawsuits and complaints have been filed against makers of metal-on-metal replacement hips. The problem lies in the fact that such all-metal hips are not lasting the 15 years artificial joints typically do, partially because of the grind of metal against metal.

One new study finds that, when considering new artificial hips or knees introduced over a recent five-year period, none of them were more durable than older versions, and 30% were actually worse. Until recently, all-metal implants made up almost one-third of all hip replacements annually, and 500,000 patients are estimated to have received the metal-on-metal implants. The problem is particularly widespread because the entire class of implants is involved, rather than just one problematic device. As a result, many patients, some of whom are basically incapacitated, are watching medical bills grow—and some are having a hard time getting insurers to pay. Click for the full article.