A Million Knee Devices a Year, a Million Reasons for Concern

With more accurate numbers to gauge how many Americans each year have hips and knees replaced, it’s fair to assume that the incidence of hip & knee replacement implant failure will also increase, given a continuing rise in replacement procedures and continuing problems with latest-generation devices that pale in performance when compared with their older siblings.

According to the Sandusky Register of Ohio (4/6/14), more than two out of every 100 Americans right now are walking around with an artificial joint. And joint replacement is more common for Americans over 50, with five out of every 100 Americans over 50 (five percent) now sporting a replacement knee, and two percent with a replacement hip.

What’s more, according to statistics reported in March by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, about 600,000 knee replacements and 400,000 hip replacement procedures are performed in the US each year. That’s about a million – and as the largest single demographic in the US (the Baby Boomer) continues to age, that number is projected to increase even further over the next 15 years.

Dr. Daniel J. Berry, the Chair of Orthopedic surgery at the renowned Mayo Clinic, noted in the report that the numbers are “remarkable.” Studies have determined that about seven million Americans have undergone a total hip or knee replacement.

But it hasn’t happened without some problems, as many a hip replacement lawyer can attest.

It was a year ago, according to the report, that Stryker Corp. recalled certain hip replacement devices due to corrosion and other issues, or so it was reported. This past March, Biomet agreed to a settlement that will pay hundreds of patients who received artificial hips that required revision surgery $200,000 each in compensation.

And many plaintiffs who have filed a hip replacement lawsuit will recall the settlement, back in November, that saw drug and medical device juggernaut Johnson & Johnson agreeing to pay $2.5 billion over their all-metal hip implants that were pulled off the market four years ago. About 8,000 patients, each with a hip replacement lawyer in their back pockets, were affected by that settlement.

Hip and knee implants historically and statistically have a life expectancy of about 15 years, give or take variables for unavoidable and unexpected breakdowns and failures, and issues with individual patients. As well, older devices fashioned from ceramic and other materials could have the potential for failure in certain situations.

However, the advent of new hip and knee joints, many featuring an all-metal design that was not properly vetted through clinical trial due to the FDA 510(k) clearance, has resulted in an increase of failures – and those failures are occurring far sooner than expected, requiring revision surgeries as early as 18 months following initial replacement, in some cases.

With aging Baby Boomers, and middle-aged Americans who are far more active than their parents, the need to maintain mobility at middle age has also driven up the number of procedures for Americans who are still actively engaged in work and a career. For them, the prospect of missing even more time from work for revision surgery so soon after recovery from the first, drives many to file a knee replacement lawsuit and similar litigation for hips, in order to seek compensation.

For them, yet another headline screaming Hip & Knee Replacement Implant Failure is an unwelcome intrusion on so many different levels.