For many years metal-on-metal hip devices have failed at surprisingly high rates and the question being asked remains: “Is there a lack of clinical benefits with metal-on-metal bearings?”

Recent updated information from the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) claims that metal-on-mental hip implants can cause soft-tissue damage and pain, possibly leading to more surgery to replace the implant.

Metal hip implants were created to be more sturdy than traditional implants, but instead have become a serious cause of worry following many user discomforts and safety problems.

The traditional implants were made of a ceramic or metal ball with a plastic socket.

The FDA reported that all-metal implants can lose metal where two components connect, like the point where the ball and the cup slide against each other during running or walking. A release of metal can cause wear and tear of the implant, bone damage, as well as harm soft tissue around the implant.

Soft tissue damage can produce pain, loosening of the implant, device failure, and need for revision surgery. It is possible that some of the metal pieces could travel to other places in the body and cause symptoms or illness.

Currently, the FDA does not have enough data to precisely identify the concentration levels of metal pieces lost in a patient’s body or blood to create adverse effects. Additionally, different patients have different reactions to specific metal wear particles.

The FDA recommends surgeons select a metal-on-metal hip implant for their patient only after deciding that its advantages are greater than those offered by an alternative hip system.

Every patient should be aware that hip implants have benefits and risks. The FDA urges patients to discuss all options with their surgeon.

If you currently have a metal-on-metal hip implant and are experiencing symptoms such as:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • change in your ability to walk
  • numbness
  • noises (clicking, squeaking, grinding, popping)

…contact your orthopedic surgeon right away.

If you are not having problems or symptoms and your surgeon thinks your implant is working well, it is recommended that you follow-up with the surgeon every one to two years.

In July of 2012, the FDA released a similar report stating that there are few reasons left to use metal-on-metal hip implants. Experts decided they had fewer benefits than risks. The main concern was how they exposed patients to released metal particles.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald