Metal Hips Failing Fast, Report Says
By BARRY MEIER
Published: September 15, 2011
In a troubling development for people with all-metal artificial hips, a registry that tracks orthopedic implants in Britain reported on Thursday that the failure rate of the devices was increasing.
A British registry found that the highest failure rates involved the Articular Surface Replacement device, which was recalled.
The National Joint Registry for England and Wales said that an all-metal artificial hip once sold by Johnson & Johnson had failed in an estimated one-third of the patients who had been followed for the longest time. The device was recalled by the company last year.
The British registry also found that the early failure rate of some other “metal-on-metal” hips — ones in which both the ball and the socket components of an artificial joint are made of metal — was significantly higher than for those made from other materials, including a combination of metal and plastic.
While the patients tracked by the British registry are not in the United States, doctors and patients here pay close attention to the registry’s findings because no such body exists in this country, where there is far greater use of artificial hips and knees. Australia also keeps a registry.
There was already heightened concern in the United States about the all-metal hips. In the first six months of this year, the Food and Drug Administration received more reports about problems with the all-metal hips than it had in the previous four years combined, according to an analysis by The New York Times. In May, the F.D.A. took the unusual step of ordering producers of the devices to study how frequently they were failing and to examine the health implications for patients.
While traditional artificial hips typically last 15 years or more before they need to replaced, some of the all-metal models are failing in large numbers of patients within just a few years. Early failure rates for all-metal devices were far higher in women than in men, the British report found.