In a medical malpractice lawsuit that will go to trial in Pennsylvania next month, a 31-year-old woman alleges that her orthopedic surgeon’s recommendation that she participate in clinical trials for a new type of artificial hip was influenced by substantial consulting fees paid by the manufacturer of the device she received.
Katrina McKenzie, the 31-year-old woman, experienced acute hip pain after the birth of her first child. Dr. Jonathan Garino, her surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania, recommended replacement of both hip joints with a new type of implant made by Smith & Nephew. After surgery, McKenzie began to experience persistent pain, had trouble walking, and the artificial hip started squeaking when she moved. Consultation with another doctor revealed that the new ceramic-on-ceramic hip implant had worn out.
McKenzie filed a malpractice suit against Dr. Garino and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, claiming that the high consulting fees received by the doctor from the artificial hip maker had improperly influenced his recommendation that she receive the new type of ceramic hip implant. Dr. Garino failed to disclose that he was earning between $20,000 to $50,000 a year at the time, as a Smith & Nephew consultant.
Payments to doctors by medical implant manufacturers have generated a lot of concern over the past year among consumer groups and congress. Leading orthopedic surgeons are known to receive hefty consulting fees and royalties from artificial knee and hip makers, and recently safety issues which have begun to surface surrounding the use of new ceramic-on-ceramic hip implants has increased the controversy surrounding these payments.
A study in the Journal of Arthroplasty revealed that about 7% of individuals who received ceramic implants from 2003 to 2005 developed squeaking in their hips, compared with no reports of squeaking hips among the control group who received metal and plastic hip parts.
One of the more popular types of these new implants is the Styker Trident Ceramic Hip Replacement system. A number of lawsuits have been filed due to problems with Stryker Trident hip replacements, including reports of loosening and squeaking in the hip joint. These problems can have a severe impact on quality of life, reducing ability to participate in activities and often leading to additional surgeries.
While the new ceramic hip implants were promoted as being more durable than conventional models of plastic and steel, many patients like Katrina McKenzie are discovering that they may have been misled.