Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

“Can I get a refund on my hip?” September 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:44 AM
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CONSIDER THIS SCENARIO. At the age of 51, you received a total right hip replacement after 2 ½ years of living in pain 24/7 due to osteoarthritis. That would be me.

Now, consider this. Two years later, a friend, who also has a hip implant, tells you of a nation-wide recall on artificial hips.

How would you react?

I faced this very situation recently when my friend, I’ll call her Jane, told me of the recall on her 3-year-old hip. Jane initially reacted as I would expect, with disbelief, anger and outrage. She has since calmed down.

When I heard the news from Jane, I was quite certain I didn’t have the ASR hip system from DePuy Orthopaedics because I knew my implant was different than hers. Yet, I wasn’t certain. So I checked my medical files, which didn’t show the type of hip I sport, and then contacted my orthopaedic clinic.

After explaining the reason for my call and giving the name of my surgeon, I was assured that I likely didn’t have the recalled hip. My doctor apparently does not use the DePuy ASR hip system.  But just to be certain, I was told that a physician’s assistant would check my records and call me back.

Fortunately, my surgeon selected, for me, a metal femur stem from Osteonics with a thigh bone head made of ceramic and a Pinnacle cup with a plastic liner. I later learned while researching online that DePuy makes the Pinnacle cups. But, as far as I know, those are not part of the recall.

If you have a recalled hip, you likely already know. When I contacted my clinic about 10 days ago, employees were compiling a list of patients to notify about the recall and drafting a letter of proper procedures to follow.

According to info published on DePuy’s Web site, data shows that five years after implantation, approximately 13 percent of patients (one in eight) who received the ASR total hip replacement needed revision surgery.

Now, if you’re among that one in eight—and my friend Jane isn’t at this point in time—you would have cause for concern. Hip surgery the first time around is major and expensive and requires a lengthy recovery. Imagine using a walker and then a cane while transitioning to solo walking about two months later. Imagine needing assistance to get in and out of bed, even to handle personal care issues. Recovery isn’t easy, even if you’re only in your 50s. Imagine if you’re decades older, which is typical for most hip replacement patients.

Now imagine being told that you need a new hip, because you’re having problems with your DePuy ASR hip. I feel for those patients and understand their anger. Going through a repeat surgery like they face has to be difficult. Heck, I don’t even want to consider the hip surgery I’ll need in about 20 years when my replacement needs replacing.

Recall of medical devices is nothing new, although when one affects you, such action is certainly personally alarming. In fact, a week prior to my June 2008 hip replacement surgery, news came out that joints in some individuals with ceramic on ceramic (head and cup) hip implants squeaked when they moved.

So guess what my surgeon had planned for me? Ceramic on ceramic. The morning of my surgery, he informed me that we were going to Plan B, ceramic and plastic. Sometimes I think about that. What if I had had my surgery a week or more earlier? Would I squeak when I walk? Or what if my doctor had selected the DePuy ASR hip? Maybe instead of just reading the ad in my local newspaper to call a certain attorney, I would be sitting in his office discussing my legal options.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling