Filing a Lawsuit Over Defective Hip Replacements
Arthritis and other problems with your hips might require you to have hip replacement surgery. During the surgery, doctors replace your hip with a new joint made from plastic and metal. In most cases, doctors will try other treatment options first. In some cases, the hip replacement itself is defective, and in others, the surgical technique could cause a defect. If you believe you have a defective hip replacement, contact a hip replacement attorney for a consultation.
Hip Replacement Surgery in Brief
During surgery, the doctor moves the muscles to make the hip joint visible. He or she then cuts the thigh bone with a saw to remove the “ball” of the hip. Using cement or another special material, the doctor then attaches the artificial hip to the thigh bone. He or she then cleans up the surface of the hip, including removing the damaged cartilage, and attaches the new hip joint to the hip bone. The doctor then reattaches the muscles. In some cases, the doctor might put a drain in the incision to help with fluid drainage. He or she then closes the incision. Doctors can replace the hip in one of two ways. The old way is making an incision that is at least 8 inches long. The opening is large enough for the doctor to see everything. The new way is purportedly less invasive. Instead of making one long incision, doctors make two incisions that range from 2 to 5 inches in length. The actual procedure is the same, regardless of the size of the cuts. However, although the smaller cuts are supposed to heal faster, lessen pain and blood loss after surgery, and make your hospital stay shorter, a doctor must have extensive skills to do a hip surgery through two smaller cuts instead of one large cut.
The Lifespan of a Replacement Hip
When doctors first started replacing hips, the replacement joints would last for an average of 10 years. As medical technology advanced, so did the lifespan of hip replacement joints. Now, they can last at least 20 years, in part because of new joint materials and different surgical techniques. Hip replacements are made in four ways:
- A metal ball and polyethylene joint with a plastic lining;
- A ceramic ball with a socket that has a metal lining;
- A ceramic ball with a polyethylene joint or plastic lining; and
- A ceramic ball with a joint lined with ceramic.
Because you are putting a foreign material in your body, you should expect to have some problems, including infection of the joint, including but not limited to a bone fracture; the ball could slip out of the socket; nerve damage; and bone loss. However, these symptoms should disappear shortly after surgery. The FDA says that if you have pain and other symptoms three or more months after surgery, that could indicate that you have a defective hip replacement. Additionally, determining if your hip replacement is defective is further complicated by additional issues associated with metal implants. According to the FDA, metal-on-metal hip implants could release metal shavings because of the friction of the two parts. You could react to the metal shavings.
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Reasons a Hip Replacement Is Defective
A hip replacement might be defective for many reasons, including:
- The quality of the materials used to make the implant;
- A design flaw, which you might find in a specific brand;
- Bad joint biomechanics;
- Migration issues;
- Septic loosening due to pathogens in the implant;
- Poor surgical technique;
- Missing hip replacement components;
- Poor preoperative planning;
- Fractured or otherwise defective replacement components;
- Wrong choice of prosthesis (the hip replacement); and
- An inappropriate rehabilitation program for the patient.
Not all of these are because of a defective hip replacement, but the surgeon’s technique or poor preoperative planning could cause migration issues and other issues that are not directly related to the implant itself.
Symptoms of a Defective Hip Replacement
When you have to go in for a second hip replacement surgery, it is called a “revision.” In some cases, you might have to have a revision when a hip replacement wears out. However, in other cases, you could have a defective hip replacement that causes pain and other symptoms. Since most hip replacements last at least 20 years, you might have a defective hip replacement if you have any of the following defective hip replacement symptoms from three months after surgery through several years after the original surgery:
- You suffer from pain in the hip joint;
- You suffer an injury to your hip because your new hip joint does not seem to work properly;
- Your hip is not stable;
- The hip joint loosens on or in the bone;
- You have an infection in the hip joint or where the hip joint attaches to the bone;
- You suffer osteolysis (bone loss);
- Swelling near or on the hip joint;
- Your hip grinds, clicks, pops, clicks, or squeaks;
- You develop a limp; or
- Your ability to walk decreases.
As soon as you notice any of these symptoms cropping up after surgery, you should contact a defective hip replacement surgery attorney and seek medical treatment. Keep in mind that some of these symptoms are present right after surgery, though they should resolve as you heal. If you have these symptoms three months or later after surgery, the risk of having a defective hip replacement is higher.
Medical Malpractice and Defective Hip Replacement
You might wonder how attorneys and doctors deem the hip implant defective, if the hip replacement wears out after time or if some of the symptoms of a defective hip replacement are the same as those you might have right after surgery. OrthoInfo quotes the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as saying that in the United States, doctors replace over 450,000 hips per year. Drugwatch quoted the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons as stating that 72,000 hip replacement surgeries need revision every year. Drugwatch does not say how many of those are defective hip replacements or how many hip replacements wear out over time. They did find that the metal-on-metal hip replacements need revision more often than metal-on-plastic, ceramic-on-plastic, or ceramic-on-ceramic replacements.
Complications During and After Revision Surgery
Just as your original hip replacement surgery came with risks during and just after surgery, revision surgery to repair a worn-out or defective hip replacement also has its risks. Following your doctors’ instructions after either surgery should reduce many of the complications. When having revision surgery, you might experience one or more of these complications:
- Damage to your blood vessels;
- Blood clots;
- Your hip could dislocate easier;
- Fractures at the hip and thigh bone site;
- One leg might be shorter than the other;
- The existing bone does not attach to the hip replacement;
- Infection of the surgical site;
- Infection of the hip replacement;
- The hip replacement loosens;
- New bone grows where it should not (heterotopic ossification);
- Blood clots (pulmonary embolism); and
- Nerve damage.
If you notice any of these issues, regardless of the amount of time that passed since the surgery, you should contact a medical professional. If any of these conditions become permanent after hip revisions surgery, you might also have a medical malpractice claim. Your attorney will review your medical records to determine if he or she believes you have a case, so never assume that you do not. Let an attorney determine the validity of a case.
Recovering Damages in Florida
If an investigation finds that you suffer from a defective hip replacement, you could recover economic damages and non-economic damages. The court orders both types in an attempt to make victims whole again. While the money does not remove your pain and suffering, it does relieve some of the financial stress you have for the costs of having revision surgery to replace or repair the defective hip replacement.
Most people who suffer from a defective hip replacement get economic damages, including:
- Past medical expenses for those incurred before the settlement or a jury trial award;
- Future medical expenses for those incurred after a settlement or jury trial award;
- Past lost wages for those wages lost before a settlement or jury trial award;
- Future lost wages for those wages lost after a settlement or jury trial award;
- Medical aids for walking;
- Upgrading your home to make it wheelchair accessible; and
- Should the original surgery or the revision surgery cause the death of a loved one, funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses.
If the defective hip replacement causes long-term disabilities or a loved one dies as a result of surgery to repair a defective hip replacement, you could recover non-economic damages. In most cases, insurance companies pay non-economic damages for long-term disabilities. Though each insurance company might have its own definition of long-term disabilities, the Social Security Administration defines long-term disabilities as those that doctors expect to last longer than a year, or injuries that will result in your death. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, which includes emotional distress;
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse;
- Loss of companionship if the defective hip replacement causes you to miss out on family activities;
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement;
- Loss of use of a bodily part or function (from nerve damage or another mistake by the doctor); and
- Inconvenience if you can no longer perform usual tasks such as shopping, house cleaning, lawn care, maintenance, and other chores.
Punitive Damages in Florida
You might also recover punitive damages if a medical professional was grossly negligent or intentionally caused you harm. The court orders punitive damages to punish the grossly negligent or intentional actions or inactions of medical personnel and entities. It does this in the hopes that the defendant does not repeat his or her actions.
Medical Malpractice Insurance
Some people wonder if they should try to settle their claims on their own. Because insurance companies are in business to make a profit, they may be more concerned with their bottom lines than paying the compensation you deserve. Most insurance companies will attempt to deny your claim or pay you the least amount possible. When you have someone who knows the law working on your behalf, it is more difficult for insurance companies to “justify” their denial or low offer. Insurance companies also know that if you have a professional representing your interests, you are less likely to accept a claim denial or a low settlement offer.
Contact a Defective Hip Attorney
Defective hip replacements will only cause additional pain and might cause other health problems, depending on why the replacement is not functioning properly. Additionally, you must file your claim within the applicable statute of limitations. It is always better to talk to an attorney sooner rather than later so that you have time to negotiate with the hip replacement manufacturer before filing a lawsuit (if that is what you decide to do). Once the statute of limitations runs out, you can’t file a lawsuit. If your hip replacement is defective, contact a hip replacement attorney for a consultation to decide where to go from there. You can reach the lawyers of Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA by either filling out a contact form online or calling out office at (727) 451-6900. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/hip-replacement-lawyers/