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Hip replacement sufferers present claim at Londons High Court

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
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Over 1,000 personal injury claimants have presented a compensation claim to London’s High Court after suffering failed metal-on-metal hip replacements. Some of those claiming a right to damages have allegedly suffered muscle necrosis and tissue damage as a result of problematic devices. 

71,000 hip operations carried out in the UK each year

HIP Replacement

The High Court in London is set to hold an unprecedented Case Management Conference after over 1,000 personal injury claimants lodged claims in respect of problematic hip replacements. The claims are being brought against some of the world’s largest medical device manufacturers. 

The allegations are that metal-on-metal prosthetic hip devices - including the total and resurfacing device from Zimmer/Metasul, the Pinnacle Ultamet total hip device and the Birmingham Hip resurfacing device from Smith & Nephew - promote the production of metal debris. This debris is alleged to lead to the failure of the device, with the patient ultimately suffering further injury. 

Hip replacement operations are a common type of surgery within the UK, carried out on around 71,000 patients a year, with a damaged hip joint replaced by an artificial one. The joint is one of the largest in the human body and in a healthy hip joint, the bones are connected to each other with bands of tissue known as ligaments. These ligaments are lubricated with fluid, which reduces friction. The joints are then surrounded by a type of tissue called cartilage, which provides support and prevents bones from rubbing against each other. 

Known as a ‘ball and socket’ joint, hip damage is common and can result from a variety of causes. The most common are a fracture, resulting from a fall or accident, or arthritis – either rheumatoid - where the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the lining of the joint, leading to pain and stiffness – or osteoarthritis - so called ‘wear-and-tear’, where the cartilage has worn away leading to the bones rubbing on one another.

The operation to replace a hip joint is carried out under general anaesthetic, with the surgeon making an incision into the hip, removing the damaged joint and replacing it with an artificial joint that is either a metal or ceramic alloy. 

Metal-on-metal devices were initially phased out in the 1970s

Although since its introduction in the 1960s the operation has proved to be one of the most successful in modern medicine history, the specific use of metal-on-metal replacements has since proved controversial.  There are widespread concerns that such replacements have worn away quicker than expected, causing further deterioration to the bone and tissue around the hip. There are also concerns that traces of metal can leak into the bloodstream.

Metal-on-metal devices were phased out in the 1970s but were reintroduced in the mistaken belief that they offered a lower risk of dislocation and were slower wearing compared to their counterparts. Of the claimants pursuing the High Court action, some have alleged that they have suffered muscle necrosis – the premature death of muscles – and tissue damage, as a result of the use of the reintroduced devices. 

Common complaints from those who are suffering include groin pain, difficulty walking, swelling, a sensation of grinding, numbness and loose components. With the devices no longer recommended by the British Hip Society and a number of brands of metal-on-metal prosthetics discontinued, the complainants are asserting that they should receive damages to compensate them for their pain and suffering as a result of inappropriate devices being fitted.

Making a claim for compensation following medical treatment

You are entitled to expect a certain standard of treatment from those providing medical assistance to you. If this treatment falls below standard you may be entitled to recover the cost of the private medical treatment needed to correct the failings on the part of those originally treating you. 

If you want to enquire about making a compensation claim for mistakes made during surgery, please contact one of of our hospital negligence solicitors on 0333 123 9099. Alternatively, you can send an email with your name and contact information and brief details as to the nature of the accident/clinical negligence and the injuries sustained to and one of our team.

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