People who have a type of all-metal hip replacement should be checked every year for life, a British regulator says.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said patients with certain artificial hips need annual tests to check for metal ions and MRIs if they show symptoms.

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Metal-on-metal implants can last 15 to 20 years. (Tom Gannam/Associated Press)

The new guidelines follow reports from doctors of swelling and tissue damage in some patients with metal-on-metal hip implants.

Health Canada said it is assessing the information to determine whether the recommendation applies to Canadian patients.

The update applies to those in Britain with a hip replacement with a head diameter of 36 millimetres or more.

Until now, the UK regulator said patients with this type of hip replacement needed to be monitored for a minimum of five years after their operation.

The metal implants were developed to be more durable than traditional metal or ceramic in plastic versions. The metal-on-metal implants can last 15 to 20 years.

In most cases, hip implants transform the lives of patients with severe pain and worsening lack of mobility, said Dr. Susanne Ludgate, the group's clinical director.

By monitoring patients every year, any complications will get picked up earlier and more complex surgery on the patient can be avoided, Ludgate said.