Medic’s hip fears justified

A HARTLEPOOL surgeon who raised concerns about the dangers of metal hip implants two years ago has been proved right following the release of a medical report which suggests thousands of patients could be affected worldwide.

An inquiry by the British Medical Journal and BBC Newsnight, which was sparked by town medic Tony Nargol, raises new worries about the metal implants which may affect more people than the PIP breast implants scandal.

It came as news of nearly 50,000 people with the metal-on-metal hip replacements will need annual checks over concerns the joint replacements can cause serious health risks linked to muscle and bone damage, and neurological issues.

Tiny metal ions made up of cobalt and chromium are thought to break off from the implants and leak into the blood.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued a new alert to the NHS today, saying there was a “small risk” the implants could cause complications in patients.

The report, compiled with the assistance of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust orthopaedic surgeon Mr Nargol, says around 49,000 people in the UK whose hip replacements have a head diameter of 36 millimetres or more will now need annual blood tests to check their blood ion levels, and those with symptoms will also need to undergo annual MRI scans.

Doctors will be told to consider removing and replacing the implant if the MRI scans come back abnormal or if they are concerned about rising ion levels in the blood following a series of blood tests.

And the report suggests hundreds of thousands of people around the world may have been exposed to dangerously high levels of toxic metals from failing hip implants, despite the risks being known for decades.

Hip implants, like breast implants, did not have to pass clinical trials before they were put into patients, say the investigators.

The report details how cobalt and chromium ions can seep into the tissues of patients with metal-on-metal implants, causing reactions that destroy bone and muscle, leaving some people with long-term disabilities.

Mr Nargol raised the alarm several years ago after he found abnormal wear and tear in certain types of metal hips.

That led to hundreds of patients who had metal hip replacements at the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees being recalled.

A spokeswoman for North Tees and Hartlepool Trust said that so far 823 patients with 1,047 metal hip implants had been recalled and 133 patients had their implants taken out and replaced with a safer alternative.