An estimated 600,000 people undergo knee replacement surgery every year in the United States. Some soreness, bruising, swelling, tenderness or loss of motion are common short-term issues, with 90% of knee replacements being successful. Still, researchers have found that fewer than 2% (12,000) involve severe complications that don’t go away and can cause more serious medical problems.
Eight signs of a failed replacement
- Infection: Caused by bacteria entering the knee joint during or after the surgery, this issue needs immediate medical treatment.
- Blood clots: Blood clots like deep vein thrombosis can develop after surgery and travel through the bloodstream to cause lung blockage, leading to a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Blood clots can occur after any type of surgery but are more common in orthopedic ones.
- Osteolysis: This is inflammation caused by the microscopic wear of plastic used in the implant. The resulting inflammation causes bones to dissolve and weaken.
- Constant pain: Pain or stiffness should go away or significantly lessen, but persistent or worsening pain indicates something went wrong.
- Allergy: Some patients’ bodies are allergic to the implant’s titanium or cobalt-chromium-based alloy.
- Artery injuries: Main arteries are behind the knee, and the surgeon may damage them during the procedure.
- Nerve damage: The long incision down the front of the knee enables surgeons access, but they cut tendons, muscle and ligaments when they do it. Nerves that are cut or damaged can recover, but some do not. Nerve damage is the cause of foot drop, which is a term for the inability to raise the foot at the ankle, making the repaired leg appear floppy and difficult to walk on.
- Implant issues: The overall function ability may decrease or not improve. The new joint may also be unstable or unable to manage standing and walking.
Preventable problems should not be part of the outcome
Lingering discomfort can be managed through exercise and treatment, but those who have experienced preventable injuries may be able to seek compensation for either medical malpractice or a defective knee implant that caused the harm. If there was a surgical error, product malfunction, additional injuries during therapy, or the wrong diagnosis, victims might be able to seek damages by filing a malpractice lawsuit with help from an attorney.