Private hospitals carried out more than two-thirds of the surgeries involving the use of two defective hip implant devices as a result of which almost 300 patients in Ireland require a second operation.
The latest figures from the Health Service Executive show the Whitfield Clinic in Waterford made most use of the DePuy products which became the subject of a worldwide recall in 2010. As many as 1,114 patients were fitted with the DePuy products at the Waterford clinic, compared to the next highest figure of 339 at the Galway Clinic.
The HSE said yesterday that 192 patients have already undergone revision surgery to replace the faulty implants. A further 96 surgeries have been scheduled. In addition, 23% of patients are due repeat blood tests to check levels of chromium and cobalt as a result of tiny metal shards from the implants entering the bloodstream.
The HSE has admitted to not knowing if the metal is harmful and that in order to know the long term effects "doctors and scientists need to carry out tests on large numbers of people, over a period of time".
Patients who have the implants removed and wish to have them analysed have a number of options including sending them to the London Implant Retrieval Centre for investigation.
However Dr Thomas Joyce, a biomedical engineer and expert in artificial joints based at Newcastle University in Britain, said that this arrangement was "not satisfactory" because the LIRC have been commissioned by DePuy to carry out the investigation.
Dr Joyce is currently storing the explants of approximately 700 patients who opted for removal of the faulty metal-on-metal devices — the ASR Hip Resurfacing System and the DePuy ASR Acetabular System.
He said approximately 20 of these belong to Irish patients.
"We can measure how much metal has come off the hip implants and into the bloodstream to see how poisoned they’ve been," Dr Joyce said.
Noel Griffin, 46, a father-of-four and electrician from Finglas, Dublin, said he was left with severe pain and limited mobility after receiving a faulty DePuy hip replacement in July 2007.
He said six months after his operation, under the National Treatment Purchase Fund, he started to hear noises coming from his prosthetic hip. He said that the noise was so loud that people nearby could hear it. He developed a limp. He subsequently had revision surgery last December and is considering suing the manufacturers.
Separately the HSE has confirmed it is in talks with the Royal College of Surgeons and the Irish Institute of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery to examine the viability of establishing a joint registry in Ireland. Currently there is none.
The high levels of revision surgery that followed use of the faulty DePuy products and led to a worldwide recall came to light based on research carried out by the British National Joint Registry which monitors the progress of implants
In Britain, more than 1,000 people have filed suit over the DePuy ASR hip implants.