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What Are Possible Complications of Joint Replacement Surgery?

Although 90% of joint replacement surgeries are successful, like any surgery, there are risks of complications.

Blood Clots. One of the most common complications after surgery is a blood clot in a deep vein of the leg, often caused by the decreased mobility that accompanies major surgery. These are dangerous because a piece of the clot can travel to the lungs. This impairs the lungs’ ability to get oxygen to the blood and can lead to permanent organ damage and death.

To prevent blood clots, doctors may order the use of blood thinning medications, compression stockings, compression boots, or gentle exercises to keep the blood in your legs moving. If you experience pain or swelling in your calf or thigh, your surgeon will likely perform tests to identify any blood clots. Blood clots can be treated with blood thinning medications, called anti-coagulants.

Infection. Though rare, the area surrounding your new joint can become infected. Antibiotics are effective in treating minor infections; although more serious infections can require further surgery.

Loosening and Dislocation. Over time, the new joint can loosen, which causes pain. Depending on the severity of the loosening, a new surgery might be necessary. Dislocation occurs when the ball of the joint becomes separated from the socket of the joint. Dislocation can be corrected with a brace or surgery.

Wear and Tear. Like your natural joints, artificial joints are susceptible to wear and tear. You can prevent wear by exercising to strengthen and increase flexibility in your joints. Be careful to avoid high-impact exercise or routines that involve repeated bouncing motions, like running several miles, basketball, or high-impact aerobics.

Surgical alternatives to joint replacement include:

  • Osteotomy: Cutting the bones near the joint and repositioning them to realign osteoarthritis-related deformities and move them away from joint-bearing areas, mainly in the knee.
  • Arthrodesis (joint fusion): Surgical joining together of osteoarthritis-affected joint bones to make them nonmovable. This is not a viable option for hip or knee.
  • Joint resurfacing: This usually involves the hip joint and is more often done in younger patients.


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