Total hip replacement (THR) surgery is invasive and usually requires significant recovery time. During this procedure, surgeons completely replace the patient’s own ball, socket, and femoral stem with a prosthetic hip joint implant. While millions undergo THR surgery to relieve arthritis pain and improve mobility, they also risk developing severe hip replacement complications. Stryker’s LFIT V40 femoral heads, Rejuvenate and ABG II systems put patients at increased risk for life-threatening hip replacement complications. Due to these extreme side effects, the FDA issued a warning notifying affected consumers about Stryker’s voluntarily recalled hip implants. But like many previous recalls, for individuals already implanted with these faulty devices, the warning came too late.
Hip Replacement Complications Are More Common With Metal-on-Metal Implants
In June 2012, the FDA warned that metal-on-metal (MoM) implants have components that rub against each other during physical activity. Repetitive friction causes these components to wear down and shed metal debris directly into the patient’s surrounding tissues and bloodstream. These tiny, metallic particles can seriously harm surrounding bones and joints. What’s more concerning is that as these metal ions gradually increase, patients may develop other potentially fatal hip replacement complications. This risk led Stryker to issue three different voluntary global hip implant recalls within the past decade.
Complication #1: Metallosis
A potentially fatal condition called metallosis (also known as toxic metal blood poisoning) was virtually nonexistent before MoM implant devices. According to studies, metallosis can occur whenever metal debris builds up within the body’s soft tissues. Metallosis is known to be among the most severe hip replacement complications and affects approximately 5% of prosthetic implant patients. Once metallosis damages and inflames surrounding tissue, the implant itself can loosen or slip out of place. Tissue that turns from a healthy pink to either red to gray due to oxygen deprivation is far from healthy.
In addition, patients with a metal allergy or sensitivity who develop metallosis can also suffer from metal poisoning. When metal poisoning occurs, it’s because your body’s trying to expel excess metal ions in your blood through your kidneys. After these excess metals build up too much for your body to excrete them through your urine, they become toxic. This affects multiple organ systems and can even lead to death.
Since metallosis is one of the relatively newer hip replacement complications, its full impact remains unknown. Metallosis causes some very uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Severe joint pain
- Cognitive problems
- Emotional imbalance
- Severe headaches
- Nervous system issues
Complication #2: Implant Failure/Loosening
If your implant prematurely fails or loosens, you’ll need revision surgery to fix it. Your surgeon ensures your artificial hip stays put either by press-fitting it into the bone or cementing it in place. Both options ensure that your femur (thigh bone) and pelvis fit tightly together for smoother, more natural movements. However, artificial hip prosthetics (specifically, MoM implants) sometimes loosen.
Loosening commonly occurs with faulty ball and cup designs or cement that doesn’t hold the prosthetic implant securely in place. However, more serious hip replacement complications like metallosis or osteolysis can also lead to loosening and premature implant failure. High activity levels and/or obesity can contribute to stem components loosening sooner than expected (usually 5-10 years after implantation). However, even small movements with a loose joint can cause extreme pain as well as loss of motion.
If you suspect stem loosening, ask your doctor to take some X-rays around your artificial hip joint. It may take several months before your doctor can detect any movement within your hip implant components, which indicates loosening. If your surgeon suspects implant loosening is causing your pain, you may need to schedule revision surgery.
Complication #3: Osteolysis
Osteolysis is bone loss, and for THR patients, it’s a specific reaction to implanting a foreign object within your body. When your body encounters foreign implant wear debris particles, it releases enzymes, cytokines, and other cell reactions to clear them. This immunological response can cause tissue inflammation around the implantation site. Over time, your immune system’s response leads to living bone tissue resorption. Bone resorption releases minerals and calcium from living bone tissue back into your bloodstream. This is one major culprit that can cause artificial hip joint loosening, and it also requires revision surgery.
Among all possible long-term hip replacement complications, osteolysis is most common. In fact, one 2007 study says, “The incidence of periprosthetic osteolysis in many studies is greater than the sum of all the rest of the complications.” And a 2002 Swedish study found that osteolysis is cited as a causal factor nearly 75% of all hip implant failures.
Complication #4: Heterotopic Ossification
Heterotopic ossification (HO) occurs when bone forms outside the skeleton in a place where it doesn’t belong, especially soft tissue. Also known as soft tissue calcification, Incident rates can vary by gender, but studies show that up to 6.4% of THR patients develop HO. Essentially, muscles as well as tissue surrounding the hip joint calcify and stiffen. HO can also lead to local tissue necrosis (otherwise known as soft-tissue death).
Unfortunately, HO can be extremely painful. Commonly reported HO symptoms include: tenderness, swelling and decreased range of motion, but more serious hip replacement complications are possible.
Your doctor may recommend taking anti-inflammatories (e.g., NSAIDs like Aleve) to help prevent HO before and after your THR procedure. If HO does occur, your doctor can treat it either with radiation therapy or revision surgery.
Complication #5: Cysts/Pseudotumors
Inflammation surrounding your artificial hip joint can cause cysts or “pseudotumors” to form. A pseudotumor is an abnormal, yet benign mass resulting from inflammation, often surrounding MoM hip implants. These masses can cause intense pain because their enlargement encroaches on surrounding structures. including nerves, arteries, veins, and other organs. Plus, this particular side effect isn’t rare, according to recent medical studies. Research suggests up to 26% “of implanted hips have a cyst around the joint” in otherwise asymptomatic THR patients.
What To Do If You’re Experiencing Severe Hip Replacement Complications
If you or a loved one suffered hip replacement complications due to now-recalled implant devices, you may qualify for compensation. To see if you may have an eligible claim, complete your free case review today. An experienced attorney who’s knowledgeable about current hip replacement litigation will call you to discuss your injury claim compensation options.
Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.