Orthopaedic devices are fascinating. The ability to go in and surgically replace or reinforce deteriorating body parts almost seems like science fiction. It’s not so much that regular people become six million dollar men or Borg, but we can get a renewed chance for a good, normal life because of many of these products.
Hip implants are no exception. I don’t know what the life expectancy of Neanderthals was, but I doubt many of them made it to the age where arthritis was an issue. And, if they fractured a leg while fleeing predators, they were probably done for. Today, we have the ability to give futures to people with osteoarthritis and traumatic arthritis.
Stryker (you know them from defective pain pumps) has been putting out orthopaedic devices for some time. In 2003, they launched the Trident series of hip implants. These were supposed to be revolutionary, largely because they were made of ceramic components instead of metal or plastic, which was then in vogue. These ceramic devices were marketed as more durable—so much so that many patients were told that they would never need another hip replacement surgery. Stryker did a great job cornering the market with their product.
But, customer complaints started rolling in from 2005 to 2007. It seemed that the hip implants had a tendency to squeak. They made noise when moving (here is a link to one patient’s YouTube video—the noise sounds like an un-oiled tin man). Now, most implants like this will, once in a great while, make a sound. However, the orthopaedic industry has never heard something like this.
Prompted by customer complaints, the FDA examined Stryker’s Ireland and New Jersey manufacturing plants, and found significant sterility problems. They sent letters to Stryker, attempting to prompt them to fix the problems. (Note—the sterility issues do not appear to be related to the squeaking issues). After the onslaught of problems, Stryker issued a “voluntary” recall of many of its Trident hip implant devices.
Right now, the majority of these cases have been filed or transferred to the Superior Court, Law Division, Atlantic County before Judge Carol Higbee. All New Jersey state cases are being centralized before Judge Higbee. Stryker is based in Michigan, which has terrible law for plaintiffs. New Jersey, where the manufacturing plant is located, gives patients a real shot. This is one of those cases that Stryker should not even litigate. It is absurd to think that all these problems are caused by anything other than a defect—including installation problems. And, most of these patients will at some point require a second surgery to replace the implant. For older patients, that can be problematic.