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Zimmer Hip Replacements

Founded by J. O. Zimmer in 1927, Zimmer Holdings Inc. is a global company that provides solutions for the musculoskeletal health care industry. With over 8,500 employees worldwide, Zimmer has operations in over 24 countries and sells products in more than 100. Focused on restoring mobility and improving quality of life for patients, the company provides a number of products to address problems in the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and spine.

Though the corporation has been widely successful over the years in developing advanced Zimmer hip implants, some of its devices and components have been linked with serious hip replacement complications like premature loosening, metal contamination, and early implant failure requiring hip revision surgery. Patients who have suffered serious injuries after being implanted with a Zimmer hip replacement device may be eligible to file a lawsuit to seek damages in court.

Types of Zimmer hip implants

The very first hip replacements were manufactured in Germany in the late 1800s. Later, in the 1940s, surgeons in America performed the first metallic hip replacement surgery. Between the 1960s and 1980s, hip replacement procedures gained popularity as the success rate increased. Though the early prostheses were limited in size and shape, research and technology have given surgeons far more options when it comes to fitting the unique anatomy and shape of an individual patient.

In general, surgeons can choose from two types of hip implants:

  • Cemented: Designed to be adhered to the bone using a unique bone cement that holds the implant in the correct position.
  • Porous: Designed to be inserted without cement—they fit tightly within the hip socket, and the porous surfaces are coated with unique materials meant to facilitate bone growth into the component, to hold it in place.

Today, Zimmer offers a number of hip solutions. These include three basic types of components:

  • Femoral components: These fit into the top of the thigh bone and typically have a rounded “head” that fits into the hip socket
  • Acetabular components: Also called “cups,” these are shaped like a half grapefruit and fit into the hip socket, where they hold onto the femoral head
  • Revision systems: These are meant to be used in revision surgery, to repair hip systems that may have loosened or broken

Within the three categories listed above, Zimmer has unique products meant to address specific needs in various patients.

Femoral components include:

  • Zimmer M/L Taper with Kinectiv Technology—a system of modular stem and neck components designed to help the surgeon fit the prosthesis to the patient
  • Fitmore Hip Stem—provides a “bone-conserving” curved stem that works with smaller incisions
  • Zimmer M/L Taper Hip Prosthesis—for use in bone-saving surgeries while providing lateral stability
  • Versys Epoch FullCoat Hip—specifically designed to minimize thigh pain and leg lengthening discrepancies

Acetabular components include:

  • Continuum Acetabular System—designed for those with osteoarthritis and other joint diseases, with “highly porous” covering material meant to facilitate bony ingrowth
  • Trabecular Metal Modular Acetabular System—provides a variety of shell and liner options to address specific patient needs
  • Trilogy Acetabular Hip System—designed to reduce wear and tear on the plastic parts
  • Durom Acetabular Component—also called the “Durom Cup,” made from a single piece of cobalt chromium alloy metal

Revision systems include:

  • Trabecular Metal Acetabular Revision System—made with materials to increase stability
  • ZMR Hip Systems—mid-stem modular junction offers straight and bowed stems available in three lengths
  • Wagner SL Revision Hip—designed to bridge a bone defect and to increase rotational stability

Zimmer Durom Cup

The FDA approved the Zimmer Durom Cup for use in hip replacement surgeries in 2006. The new device was designed to improve stability and range of motion for patients, but as early as 2007, surgeons began to observe problems with the new Zimmer hip replacement product.

The Durom Cup was a metal-on-metal component intended to be used with the all-metal diameter femoral head—but as researchers later discovered, this increased the risk for metal contamination. As the metal components moved back and forth during normal wear and tear, tiny shards of cobalt and chromium could be shed into the surrounding tissues of the joint, causing pain, swelling, and premature loosening of the implant.

Dr. Lawrence Dorr, a renowned orthopedic surgeon and Zimmer consultant, told the company in 2007 that the Durom Cup was coming loose much too soon in some of his patients. In 2008, he wrote a letter to the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, stating that out of 165 surgeries, he had to perform 14 revision surgeries to correct premature implant loosening within two years.

Other surgeons soon reported similar problems, including:

  • Failure of the Durom Cup to adhere to the bone
  • Premature loosening of the implant
  • Unexpected movement in the hip joint
  • Damage to surrounding tissues and bone
  • Required revision surgery to correct the problems

Zimmer hip replacement recall?

In response to the reported problems and the increasing number of Zimmer hip lawsuits, the company temporarily removed the Durom Cup from the market in July 2008. This action did not constitute a “Zimmer hip replacement recall,” but only a temporary suspension of sales. After a month’s investigation, Zimmer determined that the device was not defective. Instead, they blamed surgeon error for any reported problems, and re-released the product in August 2008 with updated surgical instructions.

Zimmer hip implants lawsuits

On June 9, 2010, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all federal Zimmer hip replacement lawsuits into one court in New Jersey. Zimmer has already negotiated settlements in a number of cases, and the company indicated in a November 2012 quarterly report that it expected the total settlement payout for Durom Cup lawsuits to reach $600 million.

Qualified Zimmer hip attorneys are currently reviewing individual cases to determine eligibility for litigation.