If you or a loved one suffers from a hip problem that may require surgery, it is important to learn the facts and risks associated with artificial hip replacements. Although women and people under the age of 50 tend to have more problems with hip replacements than other populations, no one who undergoes this procedure is completely immune to its risks. They include pain, instability, infection in the hip joint, deterioration of the hip implant, bone loss, and/or loosening of the implant itself.
1. Metal-On-Metal Hip Replacement Implants Have the Highest Complication Rates
The frequency of problems occurring with hip replacements is associated with the type of material the implant is made from. All metal joints have double the complications of ceramic hip replacements and nearly four times the number of implants that use a metal ball and a plastic socket. In particular, all metal hip replacements with larger heads, the portion of the hip that fits into the socket, have the highest failure rates. These were originally intended to provide a greater level of stability in younger, more active people in need of hip replacement surgery.
Once a patient begins to have problems with a hip replacement, a more complicated revision surgery may be required. Unfortunately, this surgery has an even higher complication rate than the original surgery. In cases where the bone has deteriorated, bone grafts may be used to help rebuild enough damaged bone tissue to allow the replacement hip to be securely re-attached.
2. Movement of the Legs Causes the Implant to Release Particles
When the two components (the ball and the socket) of a hip implant rub together, a small percentage of those components are actually released and accumulate in the person's tissues. While some people are more sensitive to them than others, these released particles have been known to create significant complications. Depending on the materials from which the hip implant has been created, different types of particles will be released into the body.
All metal hip implants tend to release small amounts of cobalt and titanium ions, leading to a condition known as metallosis. Because these ions can cause the surrounding tissue to become oxygen starved and eventually begin dying, pain, loosening of the implant, deterioration of nearby bone matter, and cysts may occur. In severe cases, it can even lead to problems associated with the nervous system and brain where the metal ions have built up to a level that allows them to become distributed throughout the body.
Metal-on-plastic implants tend to release low levels of polyethylene particles which can lead to a condition known as osteolysis. This condition occurs as the body attempts to clean up and remove any foreign particles released from the implant and is responsible for approximately 75 percent of all problems associated with hip replacements. As the body's immune system attempts to remove and/or dissolve these particles, it triggers an autoimmune response where bones start reabsorbing their own cells. Over time, the implant is likely to completely fail as a result of the loosening of the prosthesis, which is unable to remain securely attached to less and less bone matter.
3. Mortality and Infection Are Less Common But Serious Complications
Although mortality is not a common complication associated with hip replacements, occurring in only one percent of people during their original surgery, the rate jumps to 2.5 percent for those that are undergoing revision surgery. Perhaps not surprisingly, age was shown to be the largest determining factor in mortality from hip replacement surgery. The most common causes of death in older patients are circulatory and respiratory diseases.
Another less common, but very serious complication, is infection in the hip joint following surgery. When caught within four weeks of the procedure, a surgeon may be able to reopen the wound and inject antibiotics directly into the site. In more severe cases or when the infection has not been discovered quickly, the entire implant may need to be removed and re-implanted at a later time when the infection has completely healed.
Sadly, the most extreme cases of infection can lead to a complete amputation of the leg and hip joint, requiring the use of a prosthetic limb.
This is not the same as taking your car in to repair a faulty part. Imagine having to undergo major surgery again just to get the defective part out of you and put a safer model in! Recalls happen and they typically happen long after the device has been approved by the FDA, years in many cases. Companies who manufacture the parts that are defective may not even declare a voluntary recall, they may choose to wait until the FDA orders then to recall their defective devices. Ultimately, leaving you in the dark until its too late.
If the defective parts have caused any type of infection or bone fractures, you now have additional pain, discomfort and additional healing time to look forward to.
Do Your Homework Before Undergoing Hip Replacement Surgery
Because of the numerous problems associated with hip replacements, it is crucial that patients are aware of and understand the risks before making the decision to have hip surgery. If your doctor is pressing you to get the surgery and doesn’t explain the risks or alternatives, you should get a second opinion. The non-surgical alternatives include stem cell and platelet rich plasma therapy. They have considerably less risks and the recovery is much less. So, do your homework and make an informed decision. Your long-term health may depend on it.
As with any form of medical treatment, you should consult with your physician before embarking on any treatment plan. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed accurate for the purposes of diagnosing your particular medical condition