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Medical Malpractice and Hip Implants

A hip implant is a major surgery but it can bring welcome relief to people suffering from hip pain from arthritis. A serious and invasive surgery like hip implants can have complications, including some of the risks associated with any major surgery. However, doctors can also make mistakes before, during, and after surgery that can cause the patient to suffer unnecessary pain, complications, or even fatal injuries. 

If you have problems after a hip replacement, your doctor may try to say it is one of the risks of surgery. It is difficult for the patient to know whether their injuries are a risk of the procedure or whether it is caused by a doctor’s errors. Medical injuries caused by a doctor’s failure to follow the standards of care are considered medical malpractice.

When a patient is the victim of medical malpractice, they can hold the doctors and hospital accountable for their losses, including medical bills, corrective surgery, and pain and suffering. If you suffered an injury caused by a doctor’s negligence, contact an experienced personal injury and medical malpractice law firm for help. 

Hip Replacement Procedures

A hip replacement is also known as hip arthroplasty. During surgery, a doctor will remove any damaged areas of the hip joint and replace them with artificial hip materials, including plastic, metal, or ceramics. Hip replacement is most commonly done to address hip pain and hip function problems caused by arthritis or other medical conditions. 

The most common reasons for patients seeking out a hip replacement are for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. These conditions can cause damage to the bones and cartilage, resulting in pain and problems moving the joints smoothly. Doctors may initially treat these conditions with medication or localized treatment. If the pain persists or worsens, the patient may be a good candidate for hip replacement. 

Hip replacement surgery is generally conducted by orthopedic surgeons. Orthopedic surgeons are doctors that specialize in treating conditions of the musculoskeletal system, including the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and skin. Orthopedic surgeons have specialized training in joint surgery and hip surgery. However, this does not necessarily mean that the orthopedic surgeons always follow the standards of medical care. 

Medical malpractice is a deviation from the standards of care that cause injury and harm to a patient. For example, if a doctor did something during hip implant surgery that other reasonable doctors would not have, under the circumstances, and it caused damage to the patient, the doctor may have committed medical malpractice.

Risks of Hip Implant Surgery 

Any surgery carries some risk. These risks can be aggravated for older patients or patients with additional medical conditions. As an invasive procedure, some of the risks of hip arthroplasty include: 

  • Infection
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Blood clots
  • Bone fractures
  • Dislocation
  • Loosening of the joint
  • Change in leg length
  • Nerve damage

Causes of Hip Implant Malpractice

There may be additional risks of hip replacement surgery that can indicate possible malpractice. If a patient suffers injuries from some of these risks, they may want to talk to a medical malpractice attorney for advice. A malpractice attorney can review the patient’s case and their medical records to find problems with the way the surgeon performed the surgery, indicating medical malpractice. Some causes of injuries during a hip implant surgery may include: 

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
  • Nerve damage
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Hospital-acquired infection from unsterilized equipment
  • Surgical injuries from malfunctioning or improperly maintained surgical equipment
  • Burn injuries
  • Disfigurement
  • Wrong body part surgery
  • Wrong patient surgery
  • Left behind foreign object
  • Wrong side surgery
  • Failure to follow up with patient
  • Anesthesiology errors

Improper Diagnosis

Most treatment options begin with making a differential diagnosis. If the doctor doesn’t know the proper medical condition or disease, the doctor may not be able to properly treat the patient. This is why a timely diagnosis is so important. Before endorsing a hip implant, doctors should understand the cause of the patient’s hip pain or functional difficulties. It may be important to know whether the patient is suffering from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or osteolysis. 

For example, osteolysis is defined as “the process of progressive destruction of periprosthetic bony tissue, characterized on serial radiographs as progressive radiolucent lines and/or cavitation at the implant-bone or cement-bone interface.” Patients with osteolysis who receive hip implants need proper care to prevent failure of the hip implant. If a doctor misdiagnoses the patient, they may not properly follow up after a hip replacement and the patient could have problems with their hip implant, requiring additional treatment or surgery. 

Surgical Errors

There are many problems that can happen during surgery. A surgeon or group of surgeons may be going through a multi-hour procedure or even be conducting several surgeries on the same day. This can lead to burn out, fatigue, and making mistakes. When a surgeon makes a mistake during surgery, it can be devastating for the patient. 

One type of catastrophic surgical error involves a wrong-patient surgery. It may seem impossible and these types of accidents are actually referred to as “never events,” because they are never supposed to happen unless negligence is involved. Unfortunately, wrong-site, wrong-side, and wrong-patient surgical errors do occur. This often occurs when doctors and surgical teams are not following proper checklist procedures to double-check they are performing the right surgery on the right patient. 

Another type of never-event surgical error involves left-behind objects in the body. There are a lot of medical tools used in surgery. If the doctors, surgeons, and nurses are not following proper surgical procedures, they can leave objects behind in a patient. For a hip implant patient, a left-behind object could include surgical gauze, needles, scalpels, or other material. These objects can cause a serious infection to develop, leading to tissue damage, sepsis, or even death. It may even take weeks or months before the problem is even discovered, requiring additional surgical procedures. 

Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia is involved in most invasive surgical procedures. Before the surgery begins, an anesthesiologist administers drugs to the patient to “put them under.” Anesthesia helps a patient stay immobilized during surgery and relieves the patient from feeling any pain during the procedure. However, anesthesia can involve very powerful drugs. Too much anesthesia can cause a patient to stop breathing or go into cardiac arrest. It is vital for anesthesiologists to properly monitor patients undergoing hip replacement surgery to make sure the patient’s vital signs are stable.

According to one study which looked at 359 anesthesia-related preventable incidents, 82% of the events were caused by human error. These errors included:

When the anesthesiologist fails to follow the standards of medical care when administering anesthesia and monitoring the patient, it can cause serious injuries, including brain damage from lack of oxygen. If a patient stops breathing and is not administered oxygen, the cells and organs in the body quickly begin to shut down. Cell death can begin within minutes of having the oxygen supply cut off. 

Infection Injuries

Infections after surgery can be very dangerous. Hip replacement patients can be vulnerable to infections while their body is recovering from surgery and adapting to have a body part replaced by artificial materials. If an infection takes hold and spreads, it can cause tissue damage and cause the patient to go into infection shock or sepsis. Infections need to be closely monitored after surgery and treated immediately to give the patient the best chance to recover. 

Infections can come from bacteria in the natural surroundings. However, some types of infections are more common in surgical centers, known as healthcare-acquired infections. However, infections can also be introduced into the surgical site when doctors do not follow proper sanitation protocols. Infections caused by using unsterilized surgical materials or doctors violating safety standards can lead to serious injury, disfigurement, and can even be fatal. 

Using Improper Implants

Using the wrong implant can cause the patient severe pain and complications. Part of the standard of care for orthopedic surgeons is to carefully consider the type of replacement implant to use and how the patient will adapt to the replacement. Failure to properly evaluate the patient and monitor patient recovery could lead to common hip implant problems, such as: 

  • Leg length discrepancy
  • Chronic pain
  • Dislocation
  • Loose joints

Defective Hip Implants Medical Equipment

Another cause of hip implant pain and injury is because of defective medical equipment. Defective hip implants can be damaged, fail to transplant, or require replacement. This can cause additional surgeries, severe pain, expensive medical procedures, and leave the injury victim unable to walk, work, or move about for weeks or months at a time. 

Hip Implant Recalls

There have been hundreds of hip replacement recalls since the 2000s. Hip implant devices have been recalled for defective designs, defective manufacturing, and labeling defects. Brands that have been subject to hip implant recalls include: 

  • DePuy hip implants
  • Biomet hip implants
  • Stryker hip implants
  • Smith & Nephew implants
  • Wright hip implants
  • Zimmer hip implants

Many of these hip implant parts were metal-on-metal designs that promised better results. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “the metal ball and the metal cup slide against each other during walking or running which can cause the release of metal particles. […] Some of the metal ions (e.g. cobalt and chromium) from the metal implant or from the metal particles will enter the bloodstream.”

DePuy Hip Implant Problems

One example of defective hip implant devices involved the DePuy ASR XL hip implant prosthetic. Hip implant prosthetics typically have a failure rate of about 0.5% to 3.0%. However, the failure rate of the DePuy ASR XL hip implants was closer to 13%. Eventually, DePuy recalled the ARS XL model in August 2010. However, a New York Times investigation found the company likely knew of the poor results long before the recall but covered them up in the interest of profit.

What Kind of Compensation Can I Get After a Hip Implant Injury?

Compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit allows the injury victim to receive an award to cover their losses. The amount of the award is based on the injury victim’s “damages.” Damages can include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages can cover financial losses, like medical bills, lost wages, and any expenses for mobility devices. 

Economic damages can also include anticipated costs in the future. If your injuries will require long-term treatment, the damages should include future medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, and costs for future care. 

Non-economic damages can include losses that may be harder to put a dollar value on. These damages in a hip replacement surgical error can include pain and suffering, mental distress, and loss of consortium. If you want to know about how much you might be able to get in compensation for a hip surgery error, talk to your medical malpractice attorney for more information.

Find a Medical Malpractice Attorney to Start Your Claim

After a medical injury, you may not be sure if you even have a claim. It can be difficult to know what happened during your surgery when you were under anesthesia. The surgeon will not likely admit to making a mistake. The good news is that a medical malpractice attorney and their medical experts can review your medical records and identify any areas of concern which might indicate a medical mistake.

There is a limited amount of time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. The statute of limitations is the time limit for filing a lawsuit and if you file your claim even one day too late, you may lose out on recovery. Different states have different time limits for filing so make sure you contact an attorney as soon as possible so they can file your medical malpractice lawsuit on time.

Contact experienced trial attorneys who have successfully represented hip implant surgery victims. Call a malpractice lawyer to find out more about your case and what kind of damages you can recover. For a free consultation, contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162.

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