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Smith & Nephew Birmingham Hip Problems Result in Safety Notice

  • Written by: Austin Kirk
  • 8 Comments

A warning has been issued to the Hong Kong department of health about potential problems with Smith & Nephew’s Birmingham metal-on-metal hip replacements, which have been linked to a high failure rate according to implant registry data in Europe and Australia. 

Smith & Nephew recently issued a safety notice that indicates the Birmingham hip failure rate appears to be higher than 1%, which exceeds the rate established for quality standards according to the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

According to data collected since 2010 in the National Joint Registry of England and Wales, as well as the Australian Orthopaedic Associations National Joint Replacement Registry, the rate of Smith & Nephew Birmingham hip problems that were classified as a failure were 1.29% and 1.12%, respectively.

Problems with Metal-on-Metal Hip Replacements Plague Many Manufacturers

The Smith & Nephew Birmingham hip is a metal-on-metal hip replacement, which features a metal femoral head that rotates within metal acetabular cup. Smith & Nephew introduced the Birmingham hip implant as the first of a new generation of metal-on-metal hip implant designs in the United States.

In recent years, problems with metal-on-metal hip replacements have caused substantial concerns within the medical community, as several newer designs introduced by competing medical device manufacturers have been associated with higher-than-expected failure rates.

Concerns about the safety of metal-on-metal hip replacements gained national media attention in August 2010, when a DePuy ASR hip recall was issued after it was discovered that this newer metal-on-metal implant was failing in about one out of eight patients within five years, often resulting in the need for risky revision surgery. 

Both in the United States and abroad, there are a growing number of medical experts who have indicated that all metal-on-metal hip replacement systems are unsafe and should be recalled from the market.  As the metal parts rub against each other, they may release microscopic shavings of metal which could increase the risk of the artificial hip failing within a few years.

In response to reports of problems and premature failures involving several different metal-on-metal hip designs, the FDA convened an advisory panel in June 2012, to evaluate the safety of the devices. After determining that there was little, if any, reason for doctors to continue using metal-on-metal hips, the panel recommended that any individuals who received one of the implants should obtain annual x-rays to check for problems and should also receive blood tests to look for signs of chromium and cobalt ions in the blood if any pain or discomfort develops.

Prior to introduction of the Smith & Nephew Birmingham hip, Wright Medical filed a citizen’s petition in 2006, attempting to block the approval, arguing that there was a lack of solid data establishing the safety and efficacy of the metal-on-metal hip design.

The petition claimed that Smith & Nephew was misrepresenting the nature of the studies submitted to the FDA and using bad science. The competing medical device maker argued that if the FDA approved the Smith & Nephew Birmingham metal hip, it may open the floodgates for companies to introduce potentially unsafe metal-on-metal hip replacement systems, with minimal clinical testing. It now appears this is exactly what occurred.

In addition to the Smith & Nephew Birmingham and DePuy ASR hip, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed throughout the United States on behalf of individuals who had other metal-on-metal hip systems fail, including the DePuy Pinnacle hip, Wright Medical Conserve Cup and Biomet M2A-Magnum hip.

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8 comments

  1. william Reply

    had my smith & nephew, birmingham resurfacing hip rsurfacing, done in march,2010, since then have had a lot of incidents, when walking or stretching, where a wrenching and grinding feeling and pain is felt. I’m an avid cyclist and fitness person, were I feel, somewhat restricted due to being afraid of experiencing further problems with the hip replacement.

  2. TonyF Reply

    Had my right hip resurfaced on 2/5/10 with a Birmingham Hip and have experienced no pain or problems. My chromium/cobalt levels are a little high but I am very active. I make sure to get an xray and blood test every year. Make sure you get the most experienced Doctor you can. My left hip is getting worse (too many marathons) and I know I will need to replace it as well. As of right now I would have my left hip resurfaced as well. Good luck.

  3. David Reply

    4 years since birmingham hip replacement. Seems to never have completely healed. Pain radiates from surgical scar, buttocks, back, side, into groin and inner thigh. Walking extremely difficult.

  4. Clive Reply

    Sept 2013 will be the 10th anniversary of my birmingham hip.
    No problems, I am very thankful. Sorry for those wih difficults

  5. Chick Reply

    Had mine done on 7/26/11. Started experiencing burning and
    occasional slipping,been an athelete and Martial Arts and
    runner most of my life.Was told during surgery gluteus had to
    be macerated and ITB cut.

    Have not had blood metal checked,but experiencing constant
    pain above left glute(surgery side).
    What’s interesting is rt. hip was worse and now through stretching
    and supplementing with cucumin not a problem.

  6. Tina Reply

    I had a BHR in 2008-it never healed; kept feeling as if it was going to dislocate and couldn’t do many of the activities that I wished. Turns out it was misaligned;metal ions were high due to parts abrading-lousy doctor !!
    Had to have it taken out and to have another BHR done went to Belgium
    Absolutely NO complaints-play r. ball x2/week with no limitation of range of motion or pain.
    Make sure the DR has done 100’s at least, (literally)and, they do them regularly… and they keep up with continuing ed on the technique (mine didn’t-I’ve learned a lot from that experience unfortunately.) If it doesn’t seem right after 9-12 mo get it x-rayed and metal ion levels done.

  7. S. Reply

    I am 50 yo and flew clear across the country to have my surgery done by one of the “best” US hip resurfacing doctors and have been in constant pain since my resurfacing surgery in 2011.
    I’ve had tons of tests but they can’t figure it out…..component looks fine. Funny, they don’t tell you before surgery that you will never get a usable MRI with a metal on metal component no matter how high tech the MRI due to the metal causing artifact…so problems are nearly impossible to find. Great for the surgeon and manufacturer – too bad for the patient.
    I have hip, groin and nerve pain in my lower leg that drives me insane. My whole life is on hold – can’t do my job, can’t do the things I love and can’t find a pill to fix it (yes, I’ve tried them all).

  8. S. Reply

    I am 50 yo and flew clear across the country to have my surgery done by one of the “best” US hip resurfacing doctors and have been in constant pain since my resurfacing surgery in 2011.
    I’ve had tons of tests but they can’t figure it out…..component looks fine. Funny, they don’t tell you before surgery that you will never get a usable MRI with a metal on metal component no matter how high tech the MRI due to the metal causing artifact…so problems are nearly impossible to find. Great for the surgeon and manufacturer – too bad for the patient.
    I have hip, groin and nerve pain in my lower leg that drives me insane. My whole life is on hold – can’t do my job, can’t do the things I love and can’t find a pill to fix it (yes, I’ve tried them all).

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