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Cobalt poisoning poses very real risk to DePuy hip implant patients

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2011 | Drug & Medical Device Injuries |

If you are experiencing pain or suffering from a defective medical device,  it’s wise to consult an attorney. For answers about legal issues in this article or with your own malfunctioning medical product, call me directly for help – Lawrence Egerton, 336-273-0508, or e-mail me at [email protected].


Along with the pain, swelling, difficulty walking and other possible problems facing DePuy hip implant patients, another serious health danger is cobalt poisoning (cobaltism). Thousands of patients with these recalled hip joint replacements will require another operation called revision surgery to replace the device.

Arthroprosthetic cobalt poisoning, along with its own very serious effects, can cause metallosis, which damages tissue around the prosthesis and can make the revision surgery less likely to succeed.

In September 2010, a doctor in Alaska published a case study of two patients with DePuy implants who had extremely high levels of cobalt in their bloodstream – 100 to 500 times normal. These are symptoms from cobaltism caused by the defective implant in these two patients:

  • tinnitus
  • deafness
  • vertigo
  • visual changes
  • rashes
  • hypothyroidism
  • tremor
  • dyspnea on exertion
  • mood disorders
  • dementia
  • heart failure
  • peripheral neuropathy

The surgeon, Dr. Steven Tower, advises that medical providers should ask patients who had these symptoms if they have had a hip replacement, and if so what type. If they have, their cobalt level should be tested.

As it turns out, the doctor himself was one of the two patients in his study. This is his opinion on that circumstance: “In my case and in the case of my patient I believe that causality is proven rather than suggested. … That I was a subject of my own report suggests that cobaltism is not rare in metal-on-metal implantees.”

Dr. Tower also reported additional symptoms from four other cases he researched. They include mental inefficiency, poor concentration, fatigue, headaches, convulsions, peripheral paresthesias, weight loss, slowed nerve conduction velocities, heart failure with tachycardia, systolic dysfunction, interstitial fibrosis, nail changes, dysgeusia, and muscle atrophy.

Background of the hip recall

The hip implants in question are as the ASR XL Acetabular System and DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing System. In August 2010, the DePuy Orthopaedics company, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, issued a voluntary recall of two hip replacement systems. DePuy stated that “13 percent of patients (1 in 8) who had received the ASR total hip replacement needed to have a revision surgery.”

With a faulty implant, as the ball and the socket of the metal joint rub against each other, friction scrapes off microscopic ions of cobalt and chromium. These particles enter the lubricating fluid that surrounds the implant. They also accumulate in nearby parts of the body, and flow through the bloodstream.

Protect yourself

DePuy has offered to cover “reasonable and customary costs of testing and treatment, including revision surgery,” and to reimburse patients for “reasonable out-of-pocket expenses.”

Obviously the damage that can potentially be caused by one of these defective devices is far greater than that. The severity of the health issues involved and DePuy’s limited offer of compensation mean you need the counsel of an expert hip-replacement attorney. The attorneys at Egerton Law can help.

More information from Egerton Law:

Further background.

Documents requesting access to your medical records (Which you should not sign.)

Why, after revision surgery, you must retain possession of your removed hip joint (explant).

The story of a lost explant.

Has your life been disrupted by problems with a malfunctioning medical product? Do you or someone you know need the advice of a lawyer specializing in defective medical devices? You can get help at the Egerton Law website. The Egerton Law firm and its personal injury attorneys want to help you. Call us at 336-273-0508. E-mail us at [email protected]

Facts about the Egerton Law firm:

• We have built a tradition of helping injured people and their families since the firm was established in 1956.

•We have handled cases in North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, New York, the District of Columbia, the North Carolina Supreme Court, and U.S. District Court. We have fought cases all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

•Our team of lawyers are dedicated to fighting insurance companies and corporate giants that seek to increase their bottom line at the expense of injured people.

Are you being:

•Pressured to agree to reimbursement for “reasonable” or “out-of-pocket” medical expenses?

•Pressured to sign document you don’t understand? (Don’t sign anything without consulting us.)

•Told to submit bills for medical services to your insurance company or Medicare, and you will be reimbursed later?

Take action and help us to help you. Call or email: 336-273-0508[email protected]. We can advise you on whether you have a case and the process for getting medical care. You will always speak to an attorney on your first call.