Zimmer Hip Replacement Problems | Zimmer Litigation Review

Zimmer Hip Lawsuits Focus Attention on Controversial Implants

Staff Writer | March 1st, 2012

Even as the orthopedic device manufacturer Zimmer Holdings develops new implant products, litigation over alleged Zimmer hip replacement problems continues. One recent Zimmer product is “Metasul,” a new material that uses forged metal, as opposed to weaker cast metal, in artificial hip joints.  According to Zimmer, this new material is both harder and smoother, making it more durable less prone to wear.

Despite the improvements in the later model, the earlier designed  Zimmer Durom Cup, offered a metal-on-metal hip replacement device that is the focus of a large portion of pending Zimmer hip implant lawsuits.

Zimmer hip implant lawsuits focus on metal-on-metal design flaw

Prosthetic implants used in total hip replacements (arthroplasty) are made up of several elements. The largest piece is a metal shaft ending in a ball that recreates the shape of the femoral head. As in a natural hip joint, the metal femoral ball fits into a socket (also called an acetabular cup).

Traditionally, the cup was fitted with a polyethylene plastic liner to ensure ease of movement. In the metal-on-metal devices, like the Zimmer Durom Cup, the metal ball sits directly inside the metal cup without a plastic liner between them.

According to complaints made in Zimmer hip implant lawsuits, as the patient moves about during daily activities, the metal parts rub on one another and can cause the release of dangerous chromium and cobalt into the patient’s hip joint and bloodstream.

The metal fragments can allegedly destroy bone material and soft tissue, causing Zimmer hip replacement problems such as fluid build-up in the joint and loosening of the implant.

Unlike other implants, which typically last fifteen years, patients allegedly suffering from Zimmer hip replacement problems often face a second arduous surgery (called a revision surgery) to repair or replace their implant in as little as two years.  Some patients forced to undergo a revision surgery have filed Zimmer hip implant lawsuits.

Zimmer hip implant lawsuits likely to increase

Though an increasing number of patients have filed Zimmer hip implant lawsuits, when the Zimmer Durom Cup was first introduced, it was widely popular and implanted in an estimated 12,000 patients. Even so, the device faced early criticism. In April of 2008 Dr. Lawrence Dorr publicly warned other orthopedic surgeons of Zimmer hip replacement problems associated with the Durom Cup, including early loosening and failure.

Amid the growing reports of Zimmer hip replacement problems, Zimmer temporarily suspended sales of its device in July of 2008. The company returned the implant to the U.S. market shortly thereafter, claiming that instances of premature dislocation were due not to any design defects, but to poor surgical technique.

Today, it is estimated that some 500,000 patients in the U.S. have received metal-on-metal implants. Over 5,000 adverse event complaints, including reports of Zimmer hip replacement problems, were filed over the devices in 2011 alone. In May of 2011, the FDA ordered manufacturers to study the safety of their products, but it is unlikely that any results from that review will be available soon.