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What are the Risks of Knee Replacement Surgery?

  • Infection is a major complication which may only need a course of antibiotics, but in a worst case scenario your new knee may have to be removed to clear the infection. In very severe cases it may not be possible to re-implant a new knee again after infection.

  • Significant bleeding is uncommon, but should it occur and does not stop you may need to return to the operating theatre to explore and stop the bleeding. A blood transfusion may also become necessary.

  • Nerve injury with subsequent numbness or loss of power can occur if a nerve is stretched or severed during the surgery. 

  • Ligament and tendon injury can also occur and may require a period of limited weight bearing, the use of a knee support or even additional procedures.

  • Your knee may feel stiff and you might not be able to fully straighten or bend the knee. It is not uncommon to have less flexibility in the knee after knee replacement if it was very stiff prior to surgery.

  • Fracture of the thigh bone or the shin may occur during surgery or later such as after a fall. If you have osteoporosis you are more at risk of this happening. We are prepared to deal with fractures occurring during surgery. Fractures around a knee replacement often require extensive intervention including the use of revision knee replacement components.

  • Blood clots can form in the deep veins of the leg which block the blood flow back to the heart causing pain and swelling of the leg. On occasions a clot can break free, travel to the lungs and cause a blockage of the arteries of the lung. Rarely, this can be lethal. We will give you blood thinners to reduce this risk and ask you to exercise your calf muscles regularly.

  • A sensitive scar usually improves over time, but you may need to regularly massage it desensitise the area.

  • Delayed wound healing is more common in smokers, diabetics, overweight people and patients on steroids.

  • Persistent pain can occur and sometimes does not settle completely even after months of rehabilitation.

  • Serious anaesthetic complications are rare but allergic reactions or a heart attack may be fatal. You may feel sick or drop your blood pressure after surgery but these usually settle quickly.

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