Thousands of Scots have been warned they could be at risk of being poisoned by unsafe metal hip replacements.
Medical regulators have launched an investigation into the safety of “metal on metal” implants, although they stressed the majority of people with the devices are at “low risk of developing any serious problems”.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) launched the action after it emerged more than 30,000 British patients have received the metal hip replacements, which are feared to be more dangerous than previously thought. It is estimated thousands of Scottish patients could be affected.
Problems with metal on metal implants happen when friction between the ball and cup cause tiny metal filings to break off and potentially seep into the blood. The fragments can also cause a soft tissue reaction, destroying muscle and bone.
A spokesman for the MHRA said: “On the evidence currently available, the majority of patients implanted with metal on metal hip replacements are at low risk of developing any serious problems.
“We are continuing to closely monitor all evidence. This needs more analysis before any conclusions can be drawn and further advice given.
“We have already taken prompt action to investigate safety concerns and have provided advice on patient management to relevant healthcare professionals.”
An alert was issued to health professionals by the MHRA in 2010 but it is understood new advice is being drawn up. Patients in pain were told two years ago to undergo annual check-ups for five years following surgery, particularly looking for chromium and cobalt in the blood, and an MRI or ultrasound scan to check for soft tissue reactions.
Thompsons Solicitors, which represents hundreds of Scots who have received hip implants, said they recently launched a new service to take forward claims from Scottish victims.
Partner Patrick McGuire said: “This latest revelation is incredibly concerning. A number of our clients were in the dark about their defective metal on metal hip implant until they came to us asking questions.”
He added: “Searching questions need to be asked and major improvements implemented.”
Bozena Michalowska, of law firm Leigh Day & Co which is representing more than 300 victims of the metal on metal implants, said: “We have known for some time the perils of these implants and their widespread use has meant we are now seeing hundreds of cases from people who have had these implants. The MHRA needs to be fully able to assess these products before they are implanted and not just pick up the pieces many years after the damage has been done.”
In September 2010, DePuy International Limited, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, announced it was urgently recalling two types of its ASR metal hip replacement implants. It came after data from the National Joint Registry of England and Wales found “failure rates” of 13 per cent for the ASR XL Acetabular system and 12 per cent for the ASR Hip Resurfacing System.