Metallosis isn’t Karen’s only concern. She is also worried that the statute of limitations is running out - her first hip replacement was done in 2008; she had problems right from the get-go and they got worse.
“First of all it’s a pretty scary operation,” Karen says. “If you have ever bought a chicken and disjointed the leg from the breast you will know exactly how the surgeons bend you in half and pop the hip joint out of its socket.” Just eight weeks after she had that surgery Karen had her other hip done - she was only 60 years old.
“I got up the next day (after the second surgery) and discovered that my right leg was one inch longer than my left leg,” Karen explains. “They suggested that I wear orthotics - what a joke! Ten days later they pulled the staples, went back in and made my leg an inch shorter. Now I am about level. The right hip doesn’t have metal-on-metal everything; it has a plastic spacer. Why didn’t my first (left hip) replacement have the plastic spacer? Now my left hip is causing all the problems but the wear is uneven and my new surgeon is closely monitoring this issue.
“It wasn’t until the summer of 2011 that I researched metal-on-metal hips. About that time the DePuy recall hit the fan. I was never told that I had a metal-on-metal hip. I phoned my surgeon’s office and asked one of his staff if I had a DePuy hip. She said, ‘Don’t worry, you have a Smith & Nephew hip.’ My relief was temporary…”
(In June 2012 Reuters reported that Smith & Nephew recalled its metal hip replacement component due to a high incidence of complications associated with the device. At issue was the metal liner, which was marketed in 2007 - one year before Karen had her hip replacement. An estimated 7,700 individuals have been affected by the Smith & Nephew hip recall. According to the company, the majority of the recalled metal liners were used in stemmed total hip replacements.)
“Finally the pain got so bad that I found a new doctor,” Karen adds. “He took a lot of x-rays and ordered lab tests - I was diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning. The x-rays revealed the hip parts with no spacer and noted that the metal cup had slipped and was rubbing against a leg tendon with every step I took. That was the killer.”
Karen’s lab results showed dangerously high elevated levels of chromium and cobalt that are released into the blood as the metal components rubbed against each other. She was also diagnosed with stage 3 kidney failure, a direct result of metallosis. Her doctor recommended immediate revision surgery to get rid of metal components. Needless to say, she was shocked.
“In November 2011, two surgeons performed the surgery because they knew beforehand it was going to be difficult,” Karen says. “They removed the Smith & Nephew ball and cup, added the plastic spacer and secured the cup with a screw to my hip bone so it won’t slide. I still have a lot of soft tissue damage in both hips. To this day I can’t lie on my side, I have to sleep propped up and I have constant pain on bending my hips.
“I guess my kidneys are healing themselves but I can’t help but think if I had a better surgeon (than the first one) I wouldn’t be addicted to painkillers. Every time I complained and cried, he just kept giving me more Vicodin: Now I am totally hooked: I take six pills a day for pain and there is nothing more the surgeon can do, nothing can alleviate my problems. I am stuck with this.”
Back in 2008, Karen began to develop severe pain upon walking and it kept getting worse. She was very athletic and chalked it up to overuse. She found her original surgeon from an article in the San Diego newspaper “bragging” about how he did a hip replacement on a female firefighter and she was back on the job in six weeks. She contacted the woman who raved about this surgeon. What better recommendation could you get?
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“I recently asked my new surgeon about all the pain in my hips and he just shrugged. I see a pain management specialist next week - I might have to go through a full drug withdrawal program; the more you take, the more you build up to the point that it can cause liver damage. Vicodan does nothing but dull the pain; it does not make me happy. It has just become a vicious cycle.
“I hate taking pills and now I am at my wits end, and I have spent tons of money with these revision surgeries. I just hope that a hip replacement lawsuit will get me some compensation.” Karen adds that she has kept all her surgery reports, all lab tests and she has the removed metal components from her first left hip surgery to serve as evidence.