Joint replacement surgery is just what it sounds like: it is the removal of a damaged joint and the subsequent replacing of it with a new, artificial one by an orthopaedic surgeon. Depending on the severity of damage, a surgeon won’t always replace the entire joint. Instead, she may replace or reconstruct only the damaged parts. In either case, the purpose of joint replacement surgery is to improve a patient’s quality of life by relieving pain and increasing mobility.
Allured by the promised benefits of joint replacement surgery, as many as 773,000 Americans have their hips or knees replaced each year. But like any surgery, joint replacement operations carry with it certain inherent risks. Such risks are unique, depending on the patient-type, which is why every doctor should be sure to inform every patient of the risks unique to that individual. If the patient fully understands these risks and is comfortable with them, the patient can consent to the replacement surgery and the operation can move forward.
While some risk is inherent to any surgery, there are certain dangers that are simply uncalled for. A prime example is the product defect manifest in the recalled DePuy ASR hip implants. Unlike medical issues which doctors spend many years studying and training to spot, physicians do not have the engineering expertise necessary to identify latent product defect issues that may exist in a manufactured medical device. Therefore, manufacturers are on the hook when their medical products cause harm to a patient.
One system that may assist doctors in spotting problematic medical devices is a National Joint Replacement Registry. While Sweden, Finland, Norway, Australia and Denmark all have national joint replacement device registries, the United States does not. In a study published in the November issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, researchers examined 80,000 total knee and hip joint replacements and 5,000 ACL reconstruction surgeries in a preexisting registry. During the study, the registries effectively tracked and red flagged eight recalls and advisories, allowing doctors to quickly identify affected patients and to respond accordingly. One of the researchers even concluded that a national registry could greatly improve patient safety and provide a basis for future registry research projects that would supply even better outcomes.
Had such a registry been in place, it seems likely that doctors would have been able to realize the danger contained in the DePuy ASR hip implants much sooner, thus preventing implantation in tens of thousands of patients. Unfortunately, such a warning system was not in place, meaning thousands of patients are experiencing complications arising from being fitted with one of DePuy’s defective ASR hip implant units.
If you or someone you know is experiencing complications from a hip joint implant, please contact Berniard Law Firm for a free consultation. You are entitled to recover for the pain and suffering DePuy’s irresponsible manufacturing processes may have caused you or those close to you.