Caring Currents

A "Hip" New Sound or a Noisy Nuisance?

Last updated: May 14, 2008


Is it a mouse? A loose floorboard? A door hinge that needs oiling? Believe it or not, that squeak you hear may be caused by your parents' artificial hip.

Yes, folks, according to the New York Times, hundreds of recipients of hip implants made from ceramic materials -- heralded as the new, more durable models than older artificial hips made of metal and plastic -- are complaining that the sound emanating from their hip interferes with their everyday life. It's annoying when bending down. It's embarrassing when climbing stairs. It's a romance killer when engaging in the, um, most intimate of activities. Oh my!

This unwanted creaking malfunction remains something of a medical mystery. Patients and surgeons who talked with the Times raised concerns about whether the unwanted sound may signal that these replacement joints are wearing out prematurely. Some have opted to have subsequent surgeries to have the squeaky offenders removed. Others have elected to sue the company Stryker, the pioneer and market leader of ceramic hips, according to the Times account.

Turns out that last year the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to Stryker for its failure to take steps to prevent squeaking, among other problems.

If your parent has a ceramic artificial hip that's blissfully quiet, then nothing more than a watchful waiting approach is advised (or would that be listen-ful waiting?), unless the hip is slipping out of place or ceramic particles are breaking loose from the head or socket.

As always, if you have any concerns about your parent's hip implants -- or about what kind to choose in light of this news -- discuss the issue with your parent's surgeon, who can run through the pros and cons of both types of implant products.

Some people swear by the ceramic kind. One reader, commenting on a Wall Street Journal post on the subject, wrote that his wife was very happy with her Stryker ceramic hip and had gone back to doing step aerobics three to four times a week with nary a peep out of her hip.

Want to hear for yourself why these ceramic hips are causing such a buzz? Or, more accurately, squeak, creak, and pop. Then listen up: Frustrated recipients have posted their hip tunes on YouTube.

Image by Flickr user Cindy Funk used under the Creative Commons attribution license.