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Unknown Number of Patients Fitted With “Mix and Match” Hip Replacements

Unknown Number of Patients Fitted With “Mix and Match” Hip Replacements

An unknown number of patients across England and Wales may have been fitted with “mix and match” hip replacements that could be wearing down too quickly, releasing toxic cobalt and chromium into the bloodstream and causing swelling, inflammation and discomfort.

The concern about “mix and match” components is the latest in a string of scandals surrounding the state of the art, metal alloy devices.

Significant pain and discomfort

Last year around 90,000 hip replacements were carried out in the UK. It has been estimated that, since 2008, more than 12,000 such operations involved the fitting of metal-on-metal devices. The devices are a relatively recent innovation, which were intended to bring hope to young and otherwise fit individuals who needed a hip replacement.

However, there is a concern that doctors have been using components from different devices and putting them together themselves, before utilising them in hip operations. Problems have arisen when the “mix and match” devices do not fit together properly, causing a swelling around the hip joint due to extra wear around the bone, and metal debris to enter into the bloodstream. This can cause significant discomfort.

Keith Humphries, a 56-year-old from Cheltenham, has recently spoken out about the double hip replacement he received six years ago. Mr Humphries is pursuing legal action against Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust after he was fitted with a device at Cheltenham General Hospital made up of components from different manufacturers and which later started to break down inside him. He reported significant pain in his legs, before an MRI scan revealed iron filings running inside his body. Mr Humphries has been forced to leave his job and endure two further operations and is now seeking compensation.

Another individual, Laurence Tilley – a former marketing director from West Sussex – has reported a similar experience after being fitted with a “mix and match” device in 2009. Mr Tilley says that he has not only suffered physical pain and discomfort, but also psychological and emotional stress. He is also seeking compensation after being forced to leave his job as a result of his hip replacement.

Laura Thompson, a Personal Injury specialist at IBB, says that the symptoms often go unnoticed:

“A patient undergoing a hip replacement or resurfacing procedure may often be ignorant as to the component parts used in the procedure. If such mismatching components are used, they may suffer no symptoms to suggest that they are, effectively, breaking down inside their body until such time as they have a blood test that demonstrates the increased levels of chromium and/or cobalt present. A patient that has such signs will then undergo an MRI scan that will highlight the true damage done by the implants used. Any patient suffering symptoms that could suggest the implant is not functioning properly, which can manifest in the lower back and not just in the hip itself, ought to take advice from his or her treating physician.”

Untested and unregulated devices being used

While there is no official data that suggests that “mix and match” devices are more likely to fail sooner than other traditional ceramic implants, the devices are considered to be unregulated and untested where doctors build them themselves.

In 2010, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) circulated a warning to all trusts in England that devices should not be modified.

A MHRA spokesperson recently commented that the advice in 2010 “was formulated in close collaboration with the British Hip Society and the British Orthopaedic Association, and we have continued to refine it in consultation with clinical experts.

The MHRA is continuing to monitor the performance of all hip implants through the National Joint Registry and if patients have any questions, they should speak to their orthopaedic surgeon or doctor.” The Agency was keen to reiterate that “the majority of patients who receive hip implants have well-functioning hips and are at a low risk of developing any serious problems.”

There are calls for the regulation of such devices to be tightened, as a significant number of individuals complain of adverse effects resulting from hip operations. There are concerns that problematic devices could still be being used in operations today.

You are entitled to expect a certain standard of treatment from those providing medical assistance to you. If this treatment falls below standard you may be entitled to recover the cost of the private medical treatment needed to correct the failings on the part of those originally treating you.

If you have concerns about a hip replacement – or medical care – that you have received, please contact a member of the IBB clinical negligence team. Our goal at IBB Solicitors is to obtain justice for victims of the negligence by others, by securing compensation that reflects their pain and suffering, as well as related financial losses including loss of earnings, treatment costs and specialist care costs.

Please contact a member of our team on 01895 207835 or 01895 207295. Alternatively, send a message to Malcolm Underhill with your name, contact details and brief details as to the nature of the accident/clinical negligence and the injuries sustained, and one of our team will be able to help you.