HUNDREDS of patients with hip replacements across Sheffield could be living with a health timebomb following a warning potentially-toxic metals could be leaking into their bodies.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the Governmental agency responsible for safety standards, has issued an alert to surgeons about a type of hip joint and told them to contact all affected patients.
The agency said anyone who has had the ‘large head’ metal-on-metal joints inserted will need annual MRI scans or blood tests for the rest of their life.
The Star, under its Your Right to Know campaign, can reveal at least 165 patients in Sheffield are living with the problematic metal hip joints, as well as 181 patients in Rotherham and 164 in Chesterfield.
Surgeons throughout South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire have now stopped using the joints after fears were raised about toxins leaking into the bloodstream. Chemicals released as the metal ball and socket grind against each other could cause bone and muscle problems, loss of mobility, nausea, headaches and long-term disability.
Solicitor Gary Walker, of Sheffield firm Irwin Mitchell, said the announcement has seen a rush of patients seeking legal advice.
Lindsey Turner, aged 35, was told her faulty hip joint had been recalled by manufacturer DePuy a year ago.
The administrative worker said: “I’ve had problems with my hips since I was a baby - my sockets never formed properly.
“I had my right hip replaced in 1998, using the old plastic and metal joints, but in 2006 my left hip was replaced using the metal-on-metal implant.
“It was never right - I had it for more than five years and I was in a lot of pain, but the doctors said it was fine.
“Then I received a letter from Rotherham Hospital saying the joint had been recalled by the manufacturer.”
Blood tests showed Lindsey’s bloodstream had high levels of toxic chromium and cobalt - metals used to create the stem and cup of the joint.
Lindsey, from North Anston, said: “The surgeon at Rotherham didn’t want to replace it because he said I was too young and would be fine.
“But I wanted it out of my body so I requested a move to the Northern General, and the Sheffield surgeon, Ian Stockley, removed it last October and replaced it with a ceramic joint.”
Lindsey, who is in a long-term relationship, said: “With this new announcement, that experts are more worried than before, I am very concerned.
“The joint may be out of my body but I’m 35 and I haven’t had children yet. I’m really worried - will it have an effect on me having children?”
“It has been a really trying time for my partner and my other family members.
“I’m still having to use a crutch, and had to take a long time off work to recover from the operation.”
All hospitals in South Yorkshire have now stopped using the metal joints and have contacted affected patients.
Jacqui Sayer, a personal injury solicitor at law firm Holmes & Hills, said: “We believe many patients who have been fitted with a metal-on-metal hip will have a strong case for claiming compensation.”
Lindsey is seeking damages against manufacturer DePuy.
Mr Walker, her solicitor, said he had been contacted by 26 people in South Yorkshire seeking damages from DePuy because of failing joints, and six others who have had problems with other metal-on-metal implants.
He said: “The number of people contacting us about these joints is going up on a daily basis.”
HOSPITAL bosses have said patient safety comes first when it comes to problematic hip implants.
About 65,000 people across England and Wales have received metal-on-metal hip implants since 2003, when national joint registry records began.
And at least 49,000 with a large hip implant with a diameter of 36mm or more - including at least 500 across South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire -will now need annual blood tests to check their metal ion levels to see whether their implant should be removed amid fears of metal toxins leaking into the bloodstream.
The national figure includes 10,000 people with the ASR type manufactured by the DePuy company, owned by multinational giant Johnson & Johnson, which was recalled in September 2010 after a reported failure rate of about 13 per cent – three times the average rate for non-metal implants.
Figures obtained by solicitors Holmes & Hills and published exclusively by The Star, show 165 patients in Sheffield received metal-on-metal implants between 2003 and 2008, when surgeons in the city stopped using them.
At least 20 operations have been carried out in Sheffield since then to remove the faulty joints.
Ian Stockley, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “Patient safety is our priority and we actively monitor clinical results, not just in Sheffield, but also nationally.
“We set up a clinic to review these patients, where we tested them using X-rays, scans and blood tests to monitor the condition of the joint and the patient’s overall health.”
Rotherham Hospital inserted 181 metal-on-metal units and has since removed 25.
A spokesman said: “The trust advises any patient experiencing discomfort to visit their GP in the first instance.”
Chesterfield Hospital inserted 164 of the DePuy joints, but did not supply figures for other types of metal-on-metal joints it had used.
A spokesman said: “Patients fitted with this type of replacement have already been contacted and reviewed by their consultant surgeon to determine if they are suffering any problems.”
Barnsley Hospital said it had inserted just five DePuy joints - but was not able to reveal how many other metal-on-metal implants it had used.
Doncaster Royal Infirmary did not respond to a request for information.
A DePuy spokesman said: “The potential reactions have been known and studied for years and the reported incidence of such adverse reactions is very low.”
The alert came as doctors found clinical evidence linking the metal hip implant with a possible increased risk of cancer.
Bristol University researchers studied 80 patients fitted with the hip and discovered 15 had ‘atypical’ cells which could mutate and trigger bladder cancer.