Zimmer Hip Replacement Problems Lead to Lawsuits

Tracy Ray | March 9th, 2012

More than 500,000 hip patients in the U.S. have received controversial metal-on-metal hip replacements, including the Zimmer models that have led to so many lawsuits due to complications from the hip implant. Just in the year 2011 alone, there were more than 5,000 adverse event reports about metal-on-metal implants. Think about that: in just one year, one out of every 500 patients with these implants reported a serious problem with it! And yet, aside from a temporary suspension of Durom Cup sales by Zimmer in July 2008 while the company studied the issue, there has been no large scale Zimmer hip implant recall for these problematic metal-on-metal devices, despite the high incidence of Zimmer hip implant failure.

Why metal-on-metal implants are dangerous

Hip replacement prosthetics mirror the “ball and socket” construction of human hip bones. A metal rod ending in a “ball” stands in for the femoral head, which rests in an acetabular cup, aka the “socket.” The ball normally is fitted with a polyethylene liner to allow smooth movement and avoid friction. But in the controversial metal-on-metal devices, such as the Zimmer Durom Cup, there is no liner, and the metal ball rubs directly against the metal socket.

According to Zimmer hip lawsuits, over time the friction and wear of these metal parts can cause metal fragments to rub off and get into the patient’s hip joint and bloodstream, as well as releasing cobalt and chromium into the bloodstream. The result can be destruction of bone and soft tissue, fluid buildup in the joint, and the implant may become loose so that it no longer fits securely.

Implants may fail after only two years, forcing patients to have more surgery

Most implants last 15 years or more. But many Zimmer Durom Cup patients found that after as short a time as two years, they were forced to undergo painful additional surgery to replace or repair the implant. Many of these patients then decided to file a Zimmer hip lawsuit to seek damages for their pain and suffering.

FDA orders Zimmer and other implant manufacturers to study risks of implants

On May 6, 2011, the FDA issued 145 orders to 21 manufacturers, including Zimmer Holdings, to conduct studies on these devices. The manufacturers were ordered to collect data on patients who have been implanted with the devices, including blood samples that measure the level of metallic ions in their systems, in order to determine how frequently implant failures occur, forcing the patient to undergo additional surgery. Perhaps the results of these studies will eventually lead to a Zimmer hip recall. Only time will tell.