Chondrolysis is a relatively rare condition in which joint cartilage dies, resulting in bone grinding on bone. It is painful, and can lead to the necessity for joint replacement. Chondrolysis can cause a lifetime of pain and disability. Recently, several medical studies have linked pain pumps to chondrolysis. Pain pumps are used after surgery to deliver local anesthetic to a specific area, via an inserted plastic tube.
Initially chondrolysis patients appear to recover normally from shoulder surgery, but at some point their healing stops. They develop pain and difficulty using the joint, leading doctors to discover that their cartilage has deteriorated and they have chondrolysis. There are now about 150 lawsuits across the country involving chondrolysis and pain pumps. According to patients’ lawyers, the manufacturers disregarded safety as they sought to expand into the orthopedic market.
In the late 1990’s, orthopedic surgeons increasingly used pain pumps rather than having patients with extended hospital stays. The pain pumps were also seen as safer than narcotic painkillers. However, the FDA never approved pain pumps for use in joints. Now many health care professionals think that the local anesthetic delivered through the pain pumps, were turned into toxins by being delivered into cartilage for up to 72 hours. Doctors began seeing more cases of chondrolysis. The FDA issued a warning in November 2009, about using pain pumps in joints. Manufacturers were ordered to change their labels to discourage the use of pain pumps in joints.