How Real is the Problem?
With any surgical procedure, there are risks. The potential for short- and long-term complications depends on the nature of the surgery, whether it’s emergent in nature, the health of the patient and the competence of the health care providers involved.
In joint replacement surgery, one factor that can’t be overlooked is the quality of the medical devices.
At Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers, our Boston medical product liability attorneys recognize there has been a substantial disconnect between what manufacturers promise of these devices and the actual outcomes. These can pertain to:
- Hip Replacements
- Knee Replacements
- Shoulder Replacements
- Elbow Replacements
- Ankle Replacements
- Wrist Replacements
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), there are nearly 1 million total joint replacement surgeries conducted in the U.S. annually. Of these, approximately 500,000 are knee replacements and 175,000 are hip replacements.
By 2050, we can expect there will be approximately 4 million each year.
Although the actual procedures are deemed relatively safe, many complications are known to arise from defects in the devices. These failures leave patients without the improved mobility they were promised, and also facing corrective surgeries and potentially life-threatening adverse reactions.
In addition to the substantial losses suffered in terms of medical bills and lost wages due to time away from work, many patients and families endure great emotional trauma. Our goal is to fight to ensure these individuals are justly compensated for these losses.What is Joint Replacement?
A joint is a connection point in the body where two or more bones meet. There are several different kinds of joints, depending on the way they move. These include ball-and-socket, hinge and gliding joints, among others.
- Hips – These are ball-and-socket joints, where a rounded end of one bone fits into a cup shape of another bone.
- Knees – These are hinge joints, so named for their ability to straighten and bend like the hinge of a door.
Joint replacement surgery is the process of removing a joint that is damaged and replacing it with a new, artificial one. Goals of the surgery are to:
- Relieve pain
- Help the joint/ limb move better
- Improve mobility
Candidates for joint replacement surgery may suffer from some type of arthritis, injury, tumors or obesity.Increased Demand for Hip and Knee Replacements
In recent years, the number of hip and knee replacements performed annually has increased rapidly. An
The AAOS reports the number of total knee replacements tripled from 1993 to 2009, while the number of hip replacements doubled during the same window of time.
Researchers for the academy opine that within less than two decades, the number of hip replacements.will rise by 175 percent. Meanwhile, the number of knee replacements is expected to climb by 675 percent.
That is going to mean an estimated 3.5 million knee replacement surgeries will go up each year. And the number of “revision surgeries” – those needed to fix or replace a previous knee replacement – is expected to soar by more than 600 percent by 2030. When that happens, more than 50 percent of patients will be under the age of 65.Reasons for the Uptick
There are two main reasons for these increasing numbers:
- We have an aging population. By 2050, we’re expected to have double the number of 65-and-older adults we do now, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. One in five Americans will be elderly, and we can expect those individuals to live longer than ever. Further, the baby boomer generation is less sedentary than previous generations, and has expectations to be able to engage in many of the same activities of their youth.
- We are overweight. The U.S. is owed 95 percent of the credit for the higher demand of hip and knee replacements, and that is largely because we are harder on our joints as a result of obesity. This is one of the main reasons health care providers are offering this surgery to ever-younger patients.
Also worth noting is the fact that manufacturers have heavily marketed these products to the doctors and the public. They are described as a way to return peoples’ freedom of mobility. But what is often not featured are the complications.Joint Replacement Problems
According to Consumer Reports, all major manufacturers have recalled a product or a line of products in the last decade. In fact, most have recalled multiple products, each with high failure rates.
The agency reported that between late 2002 and 2013, there were 578 hip implant recalls and 709 knee implant recalls.
That’s nearly 1,300 recalls in a 10-year span involving just six manufacturers. Among the issues central to these recalls:
- Design flaws
- Labeling problems
- Incorrect parts/ instructions
- Implant loosening
- Manufacturing issues
- Packaging problems
- Poor fit
- Missing components
- Metal grain anomalies
- Early wear and delamination
It’s estimated that 18 percent of hip replacements and 8 percent of knee replacements in existence today are the result of revision surgeries, the cost of which is estimated in the hundreds of millions annually.
In addition to revision surgery, where metal-on-metal prostheses release cobalt or chromium, it can lead to damaging toxicity.