Squeaky hips leave customers' noses out of joint


When I was a kid, my favorite Wizard of Oz character was the Tin Man. The Lion was furry, but obnoxious, and the Scarecrow was nice, but a little too spastic. Toto was a yappy little dog and Dorothy was a girl and everyone else was just too damn weird looking. The Tin Man, though, was warm and caring, could blow steam out of his head, and made all kinds of fun sounds. He was just too damn cool.

I thought about the Tin Man recently because of some problems that Stryker Orthopaedics has been having with some of its replacement hips. Apparently, the company has a line of ceramic-lined hips that are guaranteed to last far longer than conventional plastic hips.

On the bright side, the hips have, thus far, lived up to their promise: in most cases, they are showing far less wear-and-tear than their plastic competitors. On the down side, 1-7% of these implants have developed an obnoxious squeak. Unlike the Tin Man, however, Stryker's customers can't get rid of their squeaks with a precise application of oil; they need to get their hips replaced again, a costly and intense surgical procedure with tons of potential complications.