Zimmer Hip Complications - Pseudotumors Linked to Metal Implants

Study: Ultrasounds Reveal Zimmer Hip Complications

Jacky Gale | May 1st, 2013

Zimmer Hip ComplicationsSince marketing its metal-on-metal hip replacement components, Zimmer Holdings, Inc. has received numerous complaints of Zimmer hip complications, including the need for revision surgeries. Patients typically discover that they require a revision surgery after experiencing complications. Now, a new study has determined that ultrasounds are effective for revealing potential problems before the patient experiences symptoms.

Study on diagnosing Zimmer hip complications

Donald S. Garbuz, MD, MGHSc, FRCSC and other colleagues from Vancouver, British Columbia presented their research before the Hip Society Specialty Day Meeting in Chicago. The award-winning research involved 40 study participants who underwent ultrasounds and metal artifact reduction sequence (MARS) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. The goal of the study was to determine which technique worked more effectively for determining potential problems like pseudotumors among patients with metal-on-metal hip implants.

The researchers found that the two diagnostic techniques were comparable in their results, but that the ultrasound test had a slight edge due to its sensitivity, reduced or eliminated possibility of false negatives, and reduced cost. In fact, the researchers’ analysis concluded that using ultrasounds instead of the MARS technique would save between $250,000 to $750,000 for every 100,000 patients.

Zimmer hip revision surgery is common

This study offers doctors and patients another tool when dealing with potential Zimmer hip complications. Pseudotumors in particular have been troubling because research published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery has revealed that patients with a metal-on-metal hip implant have a “substantially higher” risk of developing pseudotumors. Pseudotumors are semi-solid masses that can cause pain, swelling, and subluxation. It is generally thought that metal-on-metal hip implants like the Zimmer system give rise to pseudotumors because of the metal debris caused by friction among the parts.

Pseudotumors are not the only complications that have been reported by patients who received a Zimmer metal-on-metal implant, however. The FDA issued a new safety alert in January 2013, noting that these implants have the potential to cause damage to the soft tissues and joints.

Other complications can include chronic and significant pain, heavy metal poisoning, and lack of mobility. The devices may loosen and fail, leading to the need for additional surgeries. With additional surgeries comes additional risks: patients run the risk of complications from the surgery itself, reactions to the anesthesia, bleeding, and infections.

Complications result in Zimmer hip lawsuits

In 2011 alone, more than 5,000 complaints were submitted to the FDA regarding adverse events from metal-on-metal implants such as the Zimmer Durom Cup. Thousands of plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages for medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, ongoing care expenses, and pain and suffering. In 2008, Zimmer set aside $271.7 million in anticipation of jury awards or settlements.

Many plaintiffs have had their federal lawsuits consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL), which is proceeding in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Plaintiffs are claiming that the company failed to adequately warn patients and doctors of the potential risks involved, and that the design of the implants is allegedly defective.