Potential Problems with Hip Replacements
Joint replacements (arthroplasties) are now well-established medical interventions, particularly for knees and hips, and the number of procedures carried out has increased significantly in recent years.
According to the latest available figures from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) some 7 million Americans are now living with hip or knee replacements and more than 1 million new procedures are carried out annually.
The advancing age of the “baby boomer” generation, the increase in arthritis partly caused by spiraling obesity rates, and public expectations of mobility has seen a significant increase in demand for these procedures. And just as importantly, the average age of patients undergoing first procedures is declining.
But although most joint replacements are successful in producing a long-term enhancement of the individual’s quality of life; a significant minority causes health problems, and the number of hip replacement implant lawsuits has therefore increased in line with the increase in the number of procedures.
What Can Go Wrong with Hip Replacements
Minor stiffness, swelling or soreness are common side-effects of hip replacement surgery, but these almost always resolve themselves quite quickly and should not be regarded as complications.
Like any surgery involving anesthesia, hip replacements also involve some risk of blood clots; but this is a risk which is well understood and which can be readily mitigated against.
The more serious potential complications which may arise from hip replacements include –
Dislocation of a hip joint can occur, though it is rare, in people with natural hips, it is the most common complication following hip replacement surgery.
Dislocation occurs when the ball joint at the top of the thigh bone (femur) is pulled out of the socket of the pelvic bone in which it is supposed to sit.
This occurs most frequently in the first few weeks after surgery and is generally caused by the patient sitting or lying in a position which puts undue stress on the replacement joint.
Women, older patients and those with weak muscles surrounding the joint are particularly at risk, but all patients should be advised on the ways in which they can protect against dislocation.
First-time dislocated hips can normally be corrected without further surgery but this may become necessary if a new hip repeatedly dislocates.
Like other surgeries, hip replacement procedures carry a risk of infection. Statistically, the incidence is very low, but the consequences can be extremely serious. Usually a course of antibiotics will successfully treat the infection, but in rare cases it may be necessary to replace the new hip. In exceptional cases, if a serious infection cannot be checked, amputation of the affected limb may be carried out as a last resort.
Allergic Reactions and Metallosis
Any foreign material introduced into the body runs the risk of being attacked by the body’s own immune system and producing an allergic reaction.
Metallosis is a condition in which microscopic metallic particles build up in the body’s soft tissues causing inflammation, poisoning, and even tissue death. The metal on metal type implants which gave rise to this problem is rarely used today, but other kinds of the implant may still cause problems such as osteolysis and continue to generate hip replacement implant lawsuits.
Osteolysis is an inflammatory condition in which the body tries to remove the debris from an artificial joint implant, resulting in the loss or thinning of natural bone surrounding the implant.