Most implants are expected to last 20 years or more. However, some could fail sooner or at a higher rate than expected due to flaws in the composition or packaging. For example, the ExacTech knee and ankle replacement systems were recently recalled after it was observed that they contained a defect that caused them to fail prematurely. This recall has affected over 147,000 knee and ankle implants implanted in American bodies since 2004, prompting thousands of patients to sue the manufacturer.
This recall lawsuit has resulted in the company expanding the recall to include all knee and ankle joint replacement polyethylene inserts packaged in non-conforming packaging regardless of label or shelf life.
What Exactly Is Joint Replacement Surgery?
Joint replacement surgery, also known as arthroplasty, entails removing worn or damaged ligaments or cartilage from both sides of the joint and refurbishing it with a replacement implant. The implant is intended to emulate a normal joint, and patients should be able to resume a high level of everyday activities within a few months.
How serious is the problem?
Although joint replacement surgery is generally regarded as a “low-risk” procedure with minimal risk of complications, it does carry a significant risk of surgical repair for device removal or replacement due to complications.
When asked, “how serious is the problem?”, it’s worth noting the sheer number of these surgeries being performed.
According to the AAOS, nearly 1 million joint replacement replacements were performed in the United States in 2011. These most commonly included:
According to an AAOS study published in 2014, the percentage of total knee replacement surgeries nearly quadrupled between 2000 and 2009. During that period, the number of overall hip replacements more than doubled.
By 2050, it is expected that 4 million joint replacement surgeries will be performed each year.
The rate of failure of these devices is quite high. The error rate of these devices has been estimated to be between 7 and 43 percent. Despite hundreds of recalls and an increasing number of lawsuits, the companies continue to manufacture them. Doctors continue to implant them. In addition, we continue to see unsuspecting patients suffer as a result of poorly-designed and dangerous products.
Warning Signs Of Defective Joint Replacement Surgery
If you have had joint replacement surgery, these are the warning signs of a defective joint replacement you should be on the lookout for.
Ankle or knee swelling that is new or worsening
Swelling is the first and most obvious indicator of defective joint replacement. Anything wrong within the body shows up on the surface in the form of swelling.
Knee or ankle grinding or other noises
In the initial months after the joint replacement surgery, the patient will feel a bit of grinding and clicking noises, even with the smallest movement. It is because of the friction between the artificial implant and the bone rubbing together. The clicking and grinding subside after a few months when the implant has finally settled into the joint. If these noises are not going away after some time, this might be due to a defective implant.
Inability to support the weight
This happens in knee or hip replacement surgery. Months after surgery and physical therapy, a person is generally able to at least stand on his/her feet without losing balance. But if that’s not the case, and you are unable to even support your weight and are experiencing chronic pain, take that as a warning that something is not right.
Improperly placed implants may lead to instability, resulting in the sensation of the knee “giving way” in which the soft tissue enclosing the knee is discovered to be too frail to aid in standing and walking.
Joint dislocations are rare and only happen when the joints are overly exerted due to strenuous physical activity. If you are facing frequent joint dislocations after a major surgery like a joint replacement when your physical movement is already limited, then this is a warning sign.
Loss of range of motion
A little loss of range of motion is normal with joint replacement surgery, but if you are unable to recover full range of motion even after a few months of surgery, then there must be some underlying issue that’s causing this problem and needs to be checked out.
Complex surgery involving hip, knee, or shoulder replacement necessitates meticulous attention to detail for the surgeons involved. Joint replacement manufacturers must ensure that their product is safe, free of defects, and effective for patients in desperate need of pain relief. When those professionals fail, patients become victims of negligence.