What happens when metal hip joints fail?

At one time, doctors thought that metal hip implants were a vast improvement. Stronger than plastic and ceramic, it was believed that metal implants would last for decades and provide unparalleled durability and longevity. Since those who get hip replacements tend to be older individuals, many people assumed they would only need one surgery and never need to have the procedure done again.

Unfortunately, those high hopes quickly came crashing down. The friction of the metal rubbing on metal proved far more problematic than experts assumed. Hip joints started failing much too quickly. According to some studies, a full 50 percent of these devices may fail within the first six years.

That's a stunning failure rate. It means people end up back in the operating room far sooner than they ever thought they would. It also drives up costs and leads to pain and discomfort. Some common issues connected to defective metal implants include:


When a metal hip implant starts to break apart under friction, small flakes of metal can enter your body. You may wind up with elevated metal levels in your blood or in the tissue around the implant. In some cases, flakes can even move through your body to critical organs, e.g., the heart, and cause potentially dire complications.

Metallosis can lead to symptoms like swelling, hip joint pain, inflammation, bone loss, numbness and tissue death. It is also possible that you will have serious problems with mobility because of these symptoms.

Cobalt toxicity

Cobalt, chosen because it is both incredibly hard and durable, was used for many hip implants. The idea was to give the implants the longest possible lifespan. Unfortunately, the same flaking process described above for metallosis can also occur with cobalt. This elevates the levels of cobalt in the person's body and can lead to toxicity.

Cobalt toxicity can then bring on the same main symptoms noted for metallosis in general, but can also lead to fevers and low thyroid levels. In some cases, people have linked it to vision and hearing loss, heart failure and organ damage.

General device failure

Even without the problem of metal in your tissue and bloodstream, hip implants may eventually wear out, leading to immobility and pain. It also means that a second surgery becomes necessary, as another replacement hip gets implanted. That in turn leads to unnecessary pain and suffering, long recovery times, lost wages, high medical bills and many other costs.

Did you suffer because of a metal hip implant that did not work as projected? If so, make sure you know all of your legal options.

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  • United States District Court | District Of Arizona
  • Maricopa Country Bar Association
  • State Bar Of Arizona
  • United States Court Of Appeals | Ninth Circuit

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