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U.K. Issues Warning On Metal Hip Implants

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Warnings have been issued in the United Kingdom over metal-on-metal hip implant devices. The move followed an investigation there and adds to the growing concern about metal-on-metal medical device appliances and their adverse impact on human health.

According to research, said The Telegraph, medical regulators in the U.K. issued new advice for the more than 40,000 Britons implanted with the devices amid concerns that metal-on-metal devices are more dangerous than first believed.

Adverse reaction reports and research reveal that when the metal components of, say a hip device, experience normal friction—the type typically found when the device’s metal ball and its metal cup connect during activities such as walking—metal shards can break off and travel throughout the body, affecting blood levels, causing inflammation, and damaging muscle and bones.

As NewsInferno explained, Britain’s health regulators are particularly worried about Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy unit’s ASR hip implants and other all-metal devices and their likelihood of creating more damage than first believed. For instance, noted NewsInferno, the device could elevate blood cobalt and chromium levels, which could lead to toxicity in the kidneys, and can be passed from pregnant women to their unborn babies. The Telegraph also pointed out that the fragments could pose risks to the nervous system, the heart, and the lungs, due to long-term poisoning.

Although problems with the devices affect people in all age ranges, research has found that younger and more petite women are at greater risk, said The Telegraph. Regardless, all patients implanted with all metal devices are advised to undergo annual testing, including scans and blood tests to ensure they are not suffering from the effects of metal leakage. And, now, the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) advisors seeking more stringent advice over concerns the devices could cause “systemic toxicity” in the body, said The Telegraph.

Emerging research reveals that some hip replacements previously withdrawn from the U.K. market have much greater failure rates that previously released—up to 50 percent within six years, said The Telegraph. And, a conference of senior surgeons described the metal-on-metal implant situation as “frightening,” citing the growing number of patients suffering from tissue reactions and “component failure of catastrophic proportions,” said The Telegraph.

Metal-on-metal implants were introduced in the U.K. in the 1990s and, today, of the 40,000 U.K. patients who received implants, 10,000 were implanted with two types of DePuy devices taken off the market in 2010 over significantly high and unexpected 12-13 percent failure rates in the first five years of receiving the devices. That figure has grown, according to the Sunday Telegraph, which has reported failure rates of up to 50 percent in the first six years for patients who underwent full hip replacement.

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