Knee replacement surgery has undergone significant advancements, becoming a widely successful procedure. However, it is essential to understand that like any medical intervention, it is not without risks. While most patients experience problem-free recoveries, approximately 1 in 50 individuals may face complications. In this blog, we will explore the potential risks associated with knee replacement surgery and ways to manage and prevent them.
1. Stiffness and Mobility Challenges: One of the most common post-surgery issues is a stiff knee joint. This can lead to difficulties in performing regular activities like walking, sitting, or using stairs. However, with regular exercises and swelling reduction, this condition often resolves on its own. Pain may hinder physiotherapy exercises and cause scarring around the joint, contributing to stiffness. In certain cases, knee stiffness may require manipulation under anesthesia, followed by intensive physiotherapy.
2. Blood Clots (Deep Vein Thrombosis, DVT): The formation of blood clots in deep veins can cause pain and swelling. Preventive measures include special stockings, foot exercise pumps, and injectable blood-thinning medications like heparin. However, these medications may also increase the risk of bleeding, bruising, or infection. Newer oral anti-clotting tablets offer a more convenient alternative to injections but still carry a bleeding risk.
3. Pulmonary Embolism: In rare instances, blood clots may travel to the lungs, leading to breathlessness and chest pain. While potentially life-threatening, pulmonary embolisms can usually be treated with blood-thinning drugs and oxygen therapy.
4. Wound Infection: As with any surgery, there is a small risk of wound infection. In most cases, infections can be treated with antibiotics. However, approximately 1 in 100 patients may develop deep infections caused by bacteria from the bloodstream reaching the knee joint. These cases are challenging to treat and may require the removal of knee replacement to eradicate the infection. Extreme cases might result in the fusion of bones to immobilize the knee.
5. Nerve and Tissue Damage: During surgery, there is a slight risk of damage to ligaments, arteries, or nerves.
6. Bone Fracture: In rare cases, the bone around the replacement joint may fracture, especially in individuals with weak bones due to osteoporosis. Additional surgery may be necessary to fix the fracture and/or replace the joint components.
7. Knee Clicks or Clunks: It’s not uncommon for artificial joints to produce clicking, clunking, or popping noises when the knee moves. Generally, if these noises do not cause pain, they are not a cause for concern. Your surgeon can assess whether further investigation is necessary.
Conclusion: Knee replacement surgery has transformed the lives of countless individuals, offering improved mobility and reduced pain. Although complications are relatively rare, understanding and acknowledging the potential risks is crucial for both patients and healthcare providers. Patients must communicate openly with their surgeons, disclose their medical history, and adhere to post-surgery rehabilitation plans to minimize the likelihood of complications and ensure a successful recovery. If complications do arise, timely intervention and appropriate management can often lead to positive outcomes, allowing patients to enjoy the benefits of a new knee for years to come.