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HomeSurgeryIs Knee Replacement Surgery Dangerous

Is Knee Replacement Surgery Dangerous

No 3 Puts More Pressure On Your Hip

Risks Of Knee Replacement

My left hip frequently caused me pain the last two years before TKR, especially after 5-10 mile hikes that I took with my hiking group once or twice a week.

I was used to the knee pain but the pain on the opposite hip made it harder to favor one leg when walking. Having a painful knee while hiking and a sore hip after the hike got to be too much.

Persistent Pain And Dissatisfaction

Although outcomes after total knee replacement are good, many patients continue to report pain and dissatisfaction.

Clinically significant persistent pain and dissatisfaction has been reported in 20% of patients.5 Night pain is quite common after knee replacement. Possible explanations for such pain include unrealistic expectations, technical flaws of the procedure and pain from other sites. If the pain is persistent without a known cause then referral to the pain management team should be made.

  • Mr Waheed is senior knee fellow and Mr Dowd is consultant orthopaedic surgeon at The Royal Free and The Wellington Hospitals, London


1. SooHoo NF, Lieberman JR, Ko CY, Zingmond DS. Factors predicting complication rates following total knee replacement. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2006 88: 480-5.

2. Claus A et al. Risk profiling of postoperative complications in 17, 644 total knee replacements. Unfallchirurg 2006 109: 5-12.

3. Blom AW, Brown J, Taylor AH, Pattison G, Whitehouse S, Bannister GC. Infection after total knee arthroplasty. J Bone Joint Surg Br 2004 86: 688-91.

4. Januel JM, Chen G, Ruffieux C, et al. Symptomatic in-hospital deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism following hip and knee arthroplasty among patients receiving recommended prophylaxis: a systematic review. JAMA 2012 307:294

Wearing Out Of Implants

Knee implants don’t last forever, but the goal should be for the knee replacement to last your lifetime. Unfortunately, not every implant lasts a patient’s lifetime, and in these cases, a second knee replacement called a revision knee replacement, may be necessary.

Knee replacements are wearing out more commonly as younger, more active patients are seeking this as a treatment for their knee pain. With these patients, the stress and demands placed on a knee replacement are higher, and there is more of a chance of further surgery being necessary.

There is significant controversy about what activities should be performed by patients who have a knee replacement. It is known that some strenuous activities, including impact sports, skiing, and even golf, can create stress on the implants that may lead to early failure of the implanted joint. While many patients do these activities, there is some good evidence that this may lead to faster wearing on the implanted knee joint.

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Why And How Does A Knee Replacement Surgery Increase Heart Attack Risk

People over 60 are at greatest risk. Studies support this, such as one by Boston University School of Medicine that was published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, 2015.

Any stress to the body which results in a greater load to the heart can result in a heart attack or ischemia, especially in people with underlying cardiac disease, says Dr. Bergin.

Knee replacement can cause blood loss, which can increase the load placed on the heart.

It is usually performed in older people, who are more likely to have underlying heart disease. This may be either coronary artery disease, chronic heart failure or both.

Reason #1. Loss of hemodynamic balance. This means disruption of blood flow during surgery which can harm the heart.

Reason #2. Other underlying conditions which can make the patient more vulnerable to a heart attack include:

  • A body mass index greater than 30
  • Pre-existing heart rhythm disorder
  • Undergoing replacement on both knees simultaneously

Reason #3. The patients body is not used to trauma.

In addition, Immediately after surgery blood is a bit more hypercoaguable, says Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of NYU Womens Heart Program and radio show host of Beyond the Heart on Doctor Radio SiriusXM.

This means the blood is more prone to clotting a blood clot can form in a coronary artery, resulting in a heart attack.

Generally knee surgery is safe, and the majority of surgeries take place without heart attacks, says Dr. Goldberg.

What Are The Alternatives To Revision Surgery

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Alternatives to revision knee surgery are rarely used as they can sometimes be more complex and lead to worse results than revision surgery, but they include knee fusion or .

The following alternatives are employed depending on the seriousness of the problem affecting the knee:

  • of the knee joint may relieve pain but at the expense of keeping the knee in a fixed, non-bending position.
  • may be used in extreme cases in which the knee joint has a severe infection that cannot be eradicated

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They Struggled With Mental Health Issues

An analysis of multiple studies found that suffering anxiety or depression before a knee replacements was common among people dissatisfied with their results.

What you can do: The study doesnt offer recommendations, but it might make sense to discuss your mental health issues with your surgeon or take steps toward treatment before your surgery.

How Long Will I Need Pain Medication After Total Knee Replacement

Pain, swelling, and bruising are all normal after knee replacement surgery, both for partial and total knee replacements. Youll be sent home with oral pain medications after your surgery, which youll take for several weeks after your surgery.

The most commonly prescribed pain medications after knee replacement surgery include prescription-strength naproxen sodium, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. If those commonly used pain relievers dont provide enough relief, your doctor can prescribe something stronger, such as hydrocodone or an opioid pain killer. Narcotics are addictive pain relievers and can be taken safely after surgery but the duration of these drugs if chosen for use, should be limited as much as possible. Please speak with your physician prior to surgery in regards to the pain protocols that will be used postoperatively

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How Your New Knee Is Different

After the procedure, you may experience numbness around the incision and stiffness when bending your knee. It is unlikely that you will regain full motion, but you should find that you have more motion than you did before surgery once you are healed. Though kneeling will likely be uncomfortable, it should not harm your new knee. You should also not be alarmed if you notice clicking while bending your knee or walking. Be aware that the new knee trips metal detectors such as those at airports and secure buildings.

Who Gets Knee Replacement Surgery

Risks and Complications (and common expectations) of Total Knee Replacement Surgery

You may consider knee replacement surgery if:

  • Arthritis in the knee or a knee injury has severely damaged the mating surfaces of the joint.
  • Pain and stiffness give you trouble doing everyday activities, such as walking up or down stairs or getting in and out of a car.
  • Swelling and inflammation dont go away with rest and medication.Your knee is deformed, such as looking swollen or not shaped normally.

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What Patients Should Consider A Total Knee Replacement

Total knee replacement surgery is considered for patients whose knee joints have been damaged by either progressive arthritis, trauma, or other rare destructive diseases of the joint. The most common reason for knee replacement in the United States is severe osteoarthritis of the knees.

Regardless of the cause of the damage to the joint, the resulting progressively increasing pain and stiffness and decreasing daily function lead the patient to consider total knee replacement. Decisions regarding whether or when to undergo knee replacement surgery are not easy. Patients should understand the risks as well as the benefits before making these decisions about knee replacement.

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Make Preparing For Knee Surgery A Priority

Taking certain steps to prepare for knee replacement surgery and the recovery process is important. This can help reduce stress in the lead up to the surgery and set you up for a successful recovery.

For example, one prep step should be making adjustments to your home to make it more safe and comfortable for life after surgery. This can include clearing clutter, rearranging furniture to create larger walkways and adding safety rails to your bathroom.

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What Are The Signs Of Knee Replacement Failure

The most common symptoms of a failed knee implant are pain, decrease in joint function, knee instability, and swelling or stiffness in the knee joint.

Persistent pain and swelling can indicate loosening, wear or infection, and the location of the pain can be all over the knee or in one particular area . A decline in knee function may result in a limp, stiffness or instability. Patients who demonstrate these symptoms and signs may require revision joint surgery.

Recognizing The Signs Of A Blood Clot

Click on Katherines knee to see the animation of her knee replacement ...

Follow your orthopaedic surgeons instructions carefully to reduce the risk of blood clots developing during the first several weeks of your recovery. He or she may recommend that you continue taking the blood thinning medication you started in the hospital. Notify your doctor immediately if you develop any of the following warning signs.

Warning signs of blood clots. The warning signs of possible blood clots in your leg include:

  • Increasing pain in your calf
  • Tenderness or redness above or below your knee
  • New or increasing swelling in your calf, ankle, and foot

Warning signs of pulmonary embolism. The warning signs that a blood clot has traveled to your lung include:

  • Sudden shortness of breath

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The Risks And Complications Of Knee Replacement Surgery

Major surgeries involving knee replacement can result in a number of complications. A serious complication from a knee replacement is extremely rare, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. They will not cause any pain to 2 percent of patients. If the device is implanted, patients may experience physical complications such as implant rejection, which are possible complications from knee surgery. If you have any of the following symptoms, consult a doctor: pain, decreased joint function, knee instability, or swelling or stiffness of the knee joint. If you have had a knee replacement and are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible.

How To Prepare For Knee Replacement

There are certain steps that can improve your recovery time and results. It is important to follow your knee replacement surgeonâs instructions both before and after surgery, as well as that of your rehabilitation therapistâs recommendations. Learn more about reparing for knee replacement by reading .

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S To Take Before Surgery

In the weeks before surgery, see your dentist to check for cavities or other problems that need attention. This is because an infection from your mouth, or anywhere else in your body, can go to your knee.

Before your knee surgery, the following steps can help prevent infections:

  • Antibiotics. Your healthcare team will usually give you antibiotics in the hour before surgery, and then at 24 hour intervals afterwards.
  • Testing for and reducing nasal bacteria. There is some evidence that testing for Staphylococcus bacteria in the nasal passages, and using intranasal antibacterial ointment before surgery, could reduce infections.
  • Washing with chlorohexidine. Some evidence says that washing with cloths soaked in chlorhexidine in the days leading up to surgery could help prevent infection. Brands include Betasept and Hibiclens.
  • Avoid shaving. Opt not to shave your legs before surgery as this can increase the bacterial load.

The surgeon may recommend rescheduling your surgery if there are any changes in your medical condition, cuts or scratches on the skin, signs of a urinary tract infection, or symptoms of a cold.

Characteristics Of Severe Arthritis Of The Knee

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Pain is the most noticeable symptom of knee arthritis. In most patients the knee pain gradually gets worse over time but sometimes has more sudden flares where the symptoms get acutely severe. The pain is almost always worsened by weight-bearing and activity. In some patients the knee pain becomes severe enough to limit even routine daily activities.


Morning stiffness is present in certain types of arthritis. Patients with morning stiffness of the knee may notice some improvement in knee flexibility over the course of the day. Rheumatoid arthritis patients may experience more frequent morning stiffness than patients with osteoarthritis.

Swelling and warmth

Patients with arthritis sometimes will notice swelling and warmth of the knee. If the swelling and warmth are excessive and are associated with severe pain, inability to bend the knee, and difficulty with weight-bearing, those signs might represent an infection. Such severe symptoms require immediate medical attention. Joint infection of the knee is discussed below.


The knee joint has three compartments that can be involved with arthritis . Most patients have both symptoms and findings on X-rays that suggest involvement of two or more of these compartments for example, pain on the lateral side and beneath the kneecap . Patients who have arthritis in two or all three compartments, and who decide to get surgery, most often will undergo total knee replacement .

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What Are The Risks And Complications Of Revision Knee Replacement

Any surgery can have potential complications. The complexity of revision joint surgery increases the chance of surgical complications, which include but are not limited to:

  • damage to nerves or blood vessels
  • intra-operative fractures
  • pulmonary embolism

Infection, bleeding, damage to nerves or blood vessels, and intra-operative fractures can be minimized by using antibiotics before and after surgery, employing sterile surgical techniques and utilizing well-planned surgical exposures. Patients who are obese are particularly at increased risk of infection and wound drainage issues post operatively.

Similar to primary knee replacement, some mild swelling of the knee or ankle may be present after surgery for as long as three to six months. Swelling can be treated by elevating the leg, applying an ice pack, and wearing compression stockings.

Prior medical conditions, such as heart and lung complications or stroke conditions, can be aggravated by a revision procedure. These conditions may also develop in patients after revision surgery. Very rarely, death can occur. The decision to perform revision joint surgery is made when the benefits of pain relief and functional improvement outweigh the risk of potential complications.

Dangers And Risks Of Putting Off Knee Replacement Surgery

Patients often delay knee replacement surgery because of fear of the procedure or concerns about the recovery process. Interestingly, while many people worry about what could possibly happen if they undergo knee replacement surgery, fewer stop to think about what will likely happen if they wait:

  • Increased knee pain
  • Further damage to the joint
  • Reduced mobility and ability to use the knee

Continuing to delay knee replacement surgery can bring about serious consequences, such as the inability to walk, work and perform normal daily tasks.

Knee Replacement Surgery May Be More Complex the Longer You Wait

The longer a patient waits to have knee surgery, the more complicated the surgery can become. Here are some ways the procedure can become more complex when a person delays knee replacement surgery:

  • The knee may become deformed and therefore harder to replace
  • The surgical procedure can take longer
  • Kneecap resurfacing may be required
  • Options may become more limited. For instance, early on, a patient may only need a partial knee replacement, but if they wait, they may need total knee replacement which is a more complex procedure.

Delaying Knee Replacement Surgery May Diminish Health

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Most patients who have had knee replacement surgery not only report positive outcomes including reduced pain or complete freedom from knee pain, many say they would have had knee replacement surgery sooner.

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What Can Cause Knee Pain Years After A Knee Replacement

Knee replacements dont last forever. Most knee replacements perform well and cause no issues to patients for 10 to 20 years after the operation. When pain occurs years after knee replacement, its typically due to one of these four knee replacement problems after 10 years or more.

  • Soft tissue irritation around the knee The most common pain patients experience that occurs years after a knee replacement will be the soft tissue around the knee. Patients still have multiple tendons, ligaments, and muscles around the knee that may become irritated with varying activities.
  • The implant becomes loose A loosening implant is a cause of pain that can occur years after knee replacement surgery. A loosening implant is typically caused by wear and tear over time, though it can be exacerbated by high-impact sports or obesity. A loosening implant can cause pain as well as instability in the knee and a change in the alignment of the knee joint.
  • Infection The infection rate after knee surgery is very low, around 1 percent. If an infection does set in around the components of the knee replacement, it can be difficult to treat with antibiotics. Revision surgery may be necessary to get the infection under control.

The Risks Of Early Knee Replacement Surgery

Total knee replacement surgery is one of the toughest procedures a ...

Learn more about the risks of having total knee replacement surgery too soon and what researchers have learned from the rise in revision surgeries.

As more and more Americans choose to have total knee replacement surgery at increasingly younger ages, the number of revision surgeries procedures to correct a failed joint replacement is also soaring.

According to a study of more than 2 million knee replacement patients presented at the 2014 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons meeting, there was a:

  • 120% increase in knee replacements over a 10-year period.
  • 89% increase in knee replacements among those aged 65 to 84.
  • 188% increase in knee replacements for 45- to 64-year-olds.

Revision Risks

Some revision surgeries are relatively minor for instance, when one component of the implant is exchanged for another. But many entail removing and replacing the entire implant device, the ends of which are affixed to the thigh and shin bones. Revisions are long and complex, require special surgical skills and are rarely as successful as the first operation at restoring function and range of motion.

Studies have found that 85% of knees last 20 years, and the AAOS estimates 10% of patients will need a revision at some point. The younger you are when you have the surgery and the longer you live, the more likely it is you will need revision surgery.

Why Have Revision Rates Risen?

Risks More Likely Among Men

The Right Time for a Knee Replacement

Joint Surgery

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