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Zimmer Advised Zimmer Hip Recipient to Test for Metal Allergies

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Central Valley, NY"It isn't my surgeon's fault that he gave me a Zimmer hip replacement," says Rose, "even though a Zimmer doctor who I saw six months ago implied that my hip problems are because my doctor didn't know how to implant it properly."

Rose says she turned to a Zimmer doctor because her GP wasn't able to order an MRI to determine whether she has an infection caused by her Zimmer hip. "I have an enlarged lymph node in my groin that is bacterial but my doctors don't know what is causing it," Rose explains. "It has grown in the last seven months and I might need to have a biopsy. Obviously there is some kind of bacteria in my body, which was determined by blood tests; now it looks like I am on the way to liver damage."

(Rose discovered that metal-on-metal hip implants have been linked to metallosis or metal poisoning caused by elevated levels of chromium and cobalt in the blood. The metal-on-metal hip implants can cause the metal parts to rub against each other and shed metal debris into the body. As well, chromium and cobalt have been linked to cancer.)

"Considering the pain I was in before surgery, my hip felt better with the Zimmer implant. However, about 18 months ago I asked my GP why I was still having pain. He thought it might be due to walking and over-exertion; I wasn't used to using this leg. 'If the pain continues we will send you to a specialist,' he said. So I went to the specialist. He took an x-ray and said that everything looks good, but you can't detect an infection underneath those cups. If you have a reaction to the Zimmer hip metal and have an infection, you won't be able to see under the cup with a regular x-ray.

"I heard that an MRI is the only way they can see what is going on. I haven't discussed the possibility of my Zimmer hip causing this problem with my oncologist but I will talk to him about it next week. Meanwhile, my GP said I would know it is related to my hip if the pain gets worse.

"That's why I saw the Zimmer doctor—I wasn't getting anywhere. I figured he would want to check under the Zimmer cup, to put my mind at ease. But he said, 'No way, Zimmer is a great product and that's all nonsense.' He said my pain is likely a 'little arthritis coming back.' But my orthopedic surgeon said I would never suffer from arthritis in this hip again because it is made with titanium and ceramic. Who should I believe?

"I'm afraid I'm going to wake up one day and find that my Zimmer hip won't work at all. I got this Zimmer Hip replacement in 2007, when I was 54. I broke my hip many years ago and I'm no stranger to pain. Before I had surgery I was on oxycontin—I took it early in the morning and drove an hour to work. (Taking oxy was like having five drinks; you should never take these drugs and drive. Once I had to pull over on the highway…) Then I took percocet when I got to work and another one 40 minutes before driving home. I had fentanyl patches at the weekend. Now I am just taking percocet, 'as per needed.' )

"Right now, my upper leg near my groin is sore. I'm so used to living with pain that I can't determine whether the Zimmer hip has made it worse. The pain isn't bad enough that I can't sleep at night; my main concern is infection.

"When I heard about the Zimmer Durom cup recall, I called Zimmer, who then called my orthopedic surgeon to find out what parts I have implanted. Zimmer told me that my hip is ceramic so it won't cause an infection and that my parts are not on the recall list. But my doctor told me that I have a titanium hip. It is so confusing—I don't know what to think. However, a Zimmer rep said that if I was concerned, I could go to a dermatologist and find out if I have any allergies to the ions used. Zimmer also said I could see a doctor who could test me for these metals.

"But I would like to find a doctor who will work with me; a doctor who has not been advised by their attorney not to touch a Zimmer hip unless it is an emergency. (I've been in the insurance business all my life; I know how it works: Insurance companies advise doctors not to get involved at all unless they absolutely have to.)

"Right now I am just living one day at a time. I guess I have to accept the fact that, along with surgery, you get arthritis. I do know that this hip isn't going to last much longer."

Rose is one of about 12,000 patients who had a Zimmer Durom Cup implanted over a two-year period, from 2006 to 2008. Despite complaints of failures between 20 percent and 30 percent, Zimmer denies any "evidence of a defect" with the Durom Cup. The company marketed its 'metal-on-metal' Durom Cup implant as "providing a greater range of motion and less wear than traditional hip replacement components."

In July 2008, Zimmer announced it was temporarily suspending sales of the Durom Cup in the US. In June 2011, Zimmer introduced a hip ceramic-on-ceramic implant. According to a company news release, the "Maxera Cup" is designed for younger and active patients.

(According to a company news release, Zimmer Holdings has reported first quarter FY 2011 net sales of $1.12 billion, representing an increase of 5.0 percent compared to the first quarter of FY 2010.)


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