Vitek is a company that made implants for the replacement of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) for patients with severe temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). The company was started by Dr. Homsy and sold the implants between 1983 and 1988 until they were taken off the market. They were recalled by the FDA in 1991. The FDA states “Debris in the joint from the implants can contribute to progressive bone degeneration of the condyle … and to a foreign body response which could start in this area and be carried throughout the immune system.”
My journey with the Vitek implant began in 1984. I injured my jaw at work. We needed to move a 700 lb copy machine in our
office. Unfortunately, I
gritted my teeth when I lifted and completely dislocated the TMJ disk on my right
side. I was in immediate pain at the base of my skull and went to the emergency
room. I thought I had injured my spine. They thought I might have an aneurism
and ordered an MRI. Nothing showed up so I went to my family physician.
Fortunately, he had just been playing cards with a dentist who had been
discussing TMD. My physician noticed when I opened my mouth that it had a severe deviation
to the right and sent me to the dentist.
The dentist fitted me with a splint. I also began seeing a Physical Therapist
who tried to get the right side to release. Not only did it not release, but
because of the stress from my mouth pulling right, the left disk was mutilated.
After three years of therapies and fighting Workman's Comp I finally was awarded
a settlement with the stipulation that I must have surgery to correct the
condition. This was suppose to "make me whole," but was just the beginning of my
nightmare. Workman's Comp refused to continue coverage after the surgery since they "made me whole" and were not responsible for what the implants had done.
I went to an oral surgeon who was suppose to have been an expert on TMJ
implants. In a four hour surgery he removed my disks, reshaped my skull to make
room for the implant and replaced them with Vitek Proplast Teflon
Temporomandibular Implants. He also anchored them with 8 Titanium screws in my
skull. I was not informed they were going to use metal screws. They didn't ask
if I was allergic to metal. I didn't even wear a wedding ring because of my
metal allergy and they didn't even notice. I didn't know enough to
Needless to say I had a severe reaction to the implants. Before I even
recovered from the anesthesia I was in intense pain. My head swelled up like a
monster. I was in extreme pain in my lungs, stomach, colon, and bladder. The
surgeon who had preformed thousands of these surgeries said he had never seen
anything like it. He sent me home the next day, not knowing what else to do. It
was a very painful 90 mile drive home. I began vomiting and had diarrhea. I went
to the emergency room dehydrated and spent several days in the hospital.
Within three months of the implant surgery my condyles had completely deteriorated. I returned several times to the
hospital with vomiting and diarrhea. I continued to have severe adnominal pain
and was diagnosed with chronic gastritis. My neck swelled up like I had the
mumps and I went down to 100 lbs. At the time my physician thought it was just a
reaction to the implants and not eating. Then I gained 50 lbs and was diagnosed
with Autoimmune thyroiditis from a different physician. I spent five years
trying to get relief from my constant pain and illness.
Finally in 1992 I heard about the recall of these implants. I did not receive a notice from the surgeon or the hospital. When I
went back to the surgeon he said it was not his responsibility to send a notice.
He claimed it was the hospital's responsibility. He reminded me that I signed a
release of liability and again he was not responsible for what had happened to
me. He also refused to remove the implants and basically wanted me to go away
saying there was nothing that could be done.
The hospital who provided the implants claimed they sent a notice of the
recall, but it must have gotten lost in the mail. Again reminding me that I had
signed a release of liability. I went back to the dentist who was treating me
from the beginning and he contacted the School of Dentistry. The head of the
department of Oral Surgery agreed to remove the implants in 1992. He had been
warning surgeons about these implants from the beginning. I had 30 students in
the operating room, but at least I was getting them out!
I have read about the difficulty of some people getting their insurance to
cover the surgery to have the implants remove. In the beginning my insurance
company gave me the run around. At the time my husband was working with the CEO
of the corporation and had been telling him about my condition and surgeries.
When the insurance company tried to deny coverage he called the insurance
company and told them to cover it. By this time I had gotten to know the claims
agent. The CEO had called her supervisor. She said when the CEO says cover
it...you cover it.
In 1998, my husband left me shortly after it was suggested that I might have MS. It is difficult living with someone who has constant pain and illness. He said I was going to end up in a wheelchair and he didn't want to take care of me. Amazing how he claims not to remember saying that. He was offered a job out of state and left me and my children to deal with selling the house and moving.
It all worked out in the end. I didn't have enough work credits to get SSD while I was married and he made too much money for me to quality for SSI. After he left me in poverty I was able to qualify for SSI and medicaid. He went on to start a new business and has a new wife to help him. I live in a small subsidized apartment in a senior complex, which is all I need and can take care of.
I continued to have multiple medical problems after the implants were
removed. I am in constant pain from head to toe. Just the pain alone would keep
you from functioning, but I also have difficulty thinking, remembering, and
staying focus. It takes me days to write one post. I have difficulty keeping my balance and have constant dizziness.
When I do have the strength and energy to get things done the activity puts me
in spasm and pain.
I have to lay down with a hot pack and take a break while I
am preparing food, and must rest for hours before I can get the dishes done. The
Chemical Sensitivities makes it impossible to leave my home without running into
something. Typing and looking at the monitor is painful and puts me in spasm,
yet I still need to do everything online since paper and ink brings on a more
I do not take pain medications since they cause more pain in my digestive
system than they would help. I do take gabapentin which helps with nerve pain,
in the beginning it made me groggy, but I have adjusted. I also take
Methocarbamol and Baclofen for the muscle spasms. I have a TENS unit which helps
with the pain and spasms in my lower body. If it gets near my head it sets off
my Trimengial neuralgia. Here is a chronology of what I have been through:
1984 – Jaw injury, Trimengial neuralgia, chronic paresthesia, chronic
1987 – Bilateral Vitek Proplast Teflon Temporomandibular Joint Implant
gastritis, degenerative arthritis, severe rapid condylar degeneration
1988 – Autoimmune: thyroiditis, gastritis, ulcers (no H. pylori), slight
1992 – Bilateral Vitek Proplast Teflon Temporomandibular Joint Implant
1994 – Severe Interstitial Cystitis - autoimmune
1998 – Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, spastic colon, IBS, asthma,
multiple chemical sensitivities
2001 – Thyroid/Parathyroid Lobectomy
2005 – Toxic encephalopathy, immune deregulation,
autonomic nervous system
2006 – Cervical arthritis
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