Safety issues with metal hip implants

During the last 10 years, surgeons have become partial to hip implants made from metal stems and sockets because of their supposed resistance to wear and dislocation. Recent data, however, appears to show that the metal devices may be more dangerous than older versions made of plastic or ceramic.

Hip replacements are supposed to last between 10 and 15 years. According experts, however, more than 6% of patients with metal hips needed them replaced after less than 5 years. That number is compared with just 2% of people who had ceramic or plastic joints. The experts are also recommending that receivers of metal hip implants get yearly blood tests to ensure there are no dangerous metals seeping into their blood stream.

Like 90% of medical devices sold in the U.S., the metal-on-metal hip implants were approved by the FDA without new clinical testing since they were similar to other devices already in use.

The FDA has not made any recommendations of its own for the estimated 500,000 American patients with metal hip implants.

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