Recalled hips lead to early replacements

11:21 PM, Dec 29, 2011   |    comments
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EDINA, Minn. - At one time or another most of us have received a recall notice... for our cars.

Hair stylist Meredith Gephart phoned a friend, when she opened her mail and found a different kind of recall.

"I'm like, 'Oh my gosh; my hip has been recalled.'"

"She's like, 'What?"

"I go, 'My parts have been recalled.'"

In 2009, at the age of 40, Gephart had a hip replacement to correct a worsening condition she's had since birth.

Now she's in pain again. In six weeks she'll be back in surgery to have the replacement hip replaced.

"[The hip] hasn't even been three years," she sighs.

Gephart was fitted with a hip manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, a so-called metal on metal hip. Starting last year, thousands of the replacement hips have been recalled.

Just this week the New York Times cited experts who said the financial fallout to taxpayers, insurers and employers could run into the billions of dollars.

"The current thinking is it's related to the wear of the device causing some kind of reaction within the environment of the hip joint," said Dr. Edward Cheng, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.

Metal on metal hips were supposed to be more durable, ideal for active younger people like Gephart who didn't want to face another hip replacement surgery for at least a couple of decades.

But as the metal parts wore, in some cases, they have been releasing tiny traces of cobalt and chromium. Gephart says both have been found in her bloodstream. The resulting pain has been so bad, she's had to cancel some of her appointments.

"A lot of the symptoms are very similar: pain, numbness," says Ali Sieben, an attorney with the Minneapolis law firm Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben. Sieben is now representing more than 200 patients with the recalled hips, including Gephart.

"Some of our clients are in really rough shape," adds attorney Courtney Lawrence who is working on the hip replacement cases with Sieben.

DePuy Orthopedics, the Johnson & Johnson company that manufactured the recalled hips, emailed KARE 11 a statement saying it is working with its patients and their insurers to help cover costs associated with the recall, including out of pocket medical expenses and lost wages.

The statement, in full, read:

DePuy is committed to working with patients and their health insurers to address medical costs directly associated with the recall. DePuy will also cover recall-related patient out-of-pocket expenses, such as co-pays, deductible expenses, lost wages and travel costs. ASR patients should contact the ASR Help Line at 1-888-627-2677 for assistance.

A quarter million Americans undergo hip surgery each year. For those considering one, Dr. Cheng offers a precautionary note "not to do the latest and greatest and newest thing, but do something and consult your surgeon regarding using an implant that's got a proven track record."

(Copyright 2011 KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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