UK regulators want long-term monitoring of metal-on-metal hip implants

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Health regulators in the U.K. are urging the nearly 50,000 people there with metal-on-metal hip implants like the DePuy Orthopaedics ASR and DePuy Pinnacle models to have annual safety checks to monitor any potential complications.

According to a Reuters report, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has ordered physicians to conduct annual blood tests looking for signs of toxic metal build-up, specifically of cobalt and chromium. This is a common side effect suffered by tens of thousands of people who’ve had an all-metal hip implant installed in recent years. 

The metal-on-metal implants were thought to revolutionize the artificial joint market but have instead created massive skepticism. More than 100,000 of these new implants have been used worldwide and in some models – such as the DePuy ASR – the early failure rates could be as high as 30 percent.

In addition to the risk of blood poisoning, which can lead to organ and tissue damage and other life-threatening conditions, the metal-on-metal hip implants have an overall defective design. Many people experience problems from the day of the surgery, including suffering from infections, pain at the site of the implant which does not ease, and even squeaking and popping of the implant.

This has resulted in countless and costly revision surgeries, from which some people never fully recover; ironic considering the aim of the implant was to regain close to full mobility once again.

The MHRA order to physicians also includes the need to conduct MRI tests on patients who report any of the common complications with their hip implants. Doctors are encouraged by the U.K. agency to consider replacing an all-metal implant if any patients exhibits any of these problems.