Knee Replacement Complications

knee replacement complicationsKnee replacement surgery has helped to restore knee function and mobility to a number of patients. Several products are on the market to suit knee replacement candidates of all walks of life. As with many surgical procedures, a number of patients have experienced side effects from knee replacement operations. Currently, orthopedic manufacturers such as Zimmer and DePuy face a number of claims from patients who have experienced knee replacement complications. Several patients have filed lawsuits against Zimmer for the NexGen knee replacement line.

Mild Knee Replacement Complications

Many patients experience mild knee replacement complications after their procedure. These knee replacement complications typically include bruising or minor hematoma formation around the surgery site. Patients may also experience pain and redness in the knee, especially during the healing process. Swelling and tenderness may also occur. In many cases, these knee replacement complications resolve within a few weeks, after the area is healed.

Knee Stiffness

Some patients may experience knee stiffness as a knee replacement complication. Knee stiffness may develop from trauma and tissue damage caused during the knee replacement procedure. Patients may completely recover from knee stiffness after healing time and physical therapy. However, some patients experience permanent knee stiffness. In these cases, the patient’s range of motion and overall mobility is typically limited.

Severe Knee Replacement Complications

In some cases, knee replacement complications can be life-threatening is left untreated. If patients experience severe knee replacement complications, it is recommended to seek immediate emergency medical attention.

Warning signs of potentially severe knee replacement complications include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Persistent knee warmth or redness
  • Persistent or increasing knee pain
  • Significant knee swelling
  • Persistent or increasing calf muscle pain

Infection

Knee replacement infections can range from minor to severe. Typically, medical professionals sterilize the knee before the operation and use sterile equipment and practices during the procedure. However, the open wound can still trap bacteria. Patients with a knee replacement infection may experience fever. Tenderness, redness, and swelling around the infection site are also common.

Blood Clots

Blood clots are a potential knee replacement complication. Blood clots occur when blood cells and other substances form clumps that can block the patient’s blood vessels. During knee replacement surgery, the blood around the knee may become stagnant or move slowly. This is a common cause of knee replacement complications such as blood clots. Blood thinners or special stockings may help the patient’s blood move faster. These treatments can be used during and after surgery.

Nerve and Blood Vessel Damage

Due to the invasive nature of the operation, knee replacement complications can cause nerve and blood vessel damage. There are several nerves and blood vessels near the joint of the knee. Nerve and blood vessel damage may occur as a result of surgeon error. Patients with nerve or blood vessel damage may experience numbness, difficulty moving their lower leg, or excessive bleeding. In most cases, the damage resolves over time and full function is regained.

Knee Replacement Failure

Knee replacement complications can cause the device to loosen or fail completely. Loose devices may cause severe pain in the patient’s knee. Research indicates that specific models are more likely to face knee replacement complications. In 2007, the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery conducted a study showing that roughly 38 percent of Zimmer NexGen LPS-Flex knee replacements loosened within two years. The study also showed that roughly 56 percent of the patients involved required revision surgery due to knee pain.

Avoiding Knee Replacement Complications

While some knee replacement complications are unavoidable, patients can take steps to reduce the risk. Patients are encouraged to stay active without placing excess stress on the knee replacement. It is recommended that patients follow an aftercare regimen after a knee replacement procedure.

Patients may help to avoid knee replacement complications by:

  • Taking the right pain management medication
  • Following a healthy, nutritionally diverse diet
  • Getting adequate amounts of exercise and rest
  • Enrolling in post-operative physical therapy for at least three months

View Sources
  1. "Five Reasons Why Knee Replacements Fail." Hospital for Special Surgery. Hospital for Special Surgery, 12 Jul 2010. Web. 17 May 2013. http://www.hss.edu/newsroom_five-reasons-why-knee-replacements-fail.asp
  2. "Knee Arthroscopy." OrthoInfo. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, n.d. Web. 17 May 2013. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00299
  3. Ritter, MA, et. al. "The effect of alignment and BMI on failure of total knee replacement." Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. 93.17 (2011): 1588-1596. Web. 17 May. 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21915573