Knee replacements may fail for a variety of reasons. Take a minute to make sure you know the symptoms to know when you need to act.
What Happens When a Knee Replacement Fails?
Knee replacement surgery is one of the most common joint replacement surgeries in the United States. Every year, nearly 800,000 knee replacements are performed in the United States. This number is expected to grow as the population ages.
During knee replacement surgery (also called knee arthroplasty), a surgeon removes the damaged parts of the knee joint. These parts are then replaced with a prosthesis made of metal and plastic.
The knee is the largest joint in the body and plays a critical role in movement. Most people undergo a knee replacement to improve mobility and relieve pain caused by injury or illness. Arthritis is one of the most common reasons for a total knee replacement. Most knee pain is caused by the following types of arthritis: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis. A person may also need a knee replacement if they have suffered an injury to the knee.
Prior to a total knee replacement, an orthopedic surgeon will evaluate the patient. The surgeon will review the patient’s medical history, examine the patient’s knee, conduct an x-ray, and perform other diagnostic tests as necessary.
Why do Knee Replacements Fail?
A patient undergoes a knee replacement expecting to reduce pain and increase mobility. For many patients, this expectation becomes a reality. A knee replacement can be expected to last more than 15 years.
Unfortunately, some patients experience a failed knee replacement instead of finding relief from surgery. So why do knee replacements fail? Below are a handful of the most common reasons.
Defective knee replacement
One reason that a knee replacement may fail is due to a defective knee implant. Defective knee implants cause health problems for patients and often require revision surgery to remove and replace the defective device. A patient with a defective knee replacement often experiences pain, suffering, and costly medical bills. Even after the defective device is removed, some patients continue to experience pain and other issues associated with the original surgery.
The exact number of patients suffering from a defective knee replacement is unknown. However, a growing number of lawsuits have been filed against some of the largest device manufacturers alleging the companies did not properly design, create, or market their implant devices. These lawsuits are a type of tort case called a defective product tort. It occurs when a defective product is put on the market and then injures a consumer.
A patient files a tort claim against a manufacturer to hold the manufacturer accountable. Notable manufacturers facing lawsuits for defective knee replacements include the following:
- DePuy Synthes, the Orthopaedics Company of Johnson & Johnson
- Smith & Nephew
- Wright Medical
- Zimmer Biomet
If you believe that your knee replacement failed due to a defective device, contact Guardian Legal Network. You may be able to file a lawsuit against the defective medical device’s manufacturer.
Wear and tear
Over time, a knee prosthesis and joint may suffer from expected wear and tear. As the joint breaks down, this can cause implant loosening and other issues around the prosthesis, eventually to the point where a replacement is needed.
In a small percentage of patients, complications from knee replacement include infection. A joint replacement infection is serious and can cause other complications like knee replacement failure. Per the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, signs and symptoms of an infected joint replacement include the following:
- Increased pain or stiffness in a previously well-functioning joint
- Warmth and redness around the wound
- Wound drainage
- Fevers, chills, and night sweats
After a total knee replacement, patients expect to have a stable and supportive joint. However, some patients experience instability and the feeling of their knee giving way or buckling. This feeling of instability can occur when an implant is improperly placed in the knee or when the soft tissue surrounding the knee is weak. This type of failure can sometimes be resolved through nonsurgical means. If those methods are unsuccessful, then revision surgery may be the patient’s only option.
A total knee replacement is supposed to increase mobility in the knee. However, some patients find that instead of achieving their desired range of motion, they actually experience stiffness in their joint. Knee stiffness following a total knee replacement can have many causes, including surgical complications and excessive scar tissue. In some instances, patients have to undergo a second surgery to regain their desired range of motion.
A fracture is a break in a bone. When a break occurs around a knee replacement implant, it is called a periprosthetic fracture. Any injury or trauma to the knee or surrounding area may necessitate revision surgery.
What Happens When a Knee Replacement Fails?
Knee replacement failure can occur anytime following knee replacement surgery. What happens when a knee replacement fails is different for every patient and depends on the cause of the failure.
If a patient is experiencing any symptoms below, they should see their doctor. When the patient visits their doctor, the doctor will examine the knee and ask the patient about their symptoms and any concerns they have with their knee. The doctor may conduct an x-ray or other diagnostic tests as needed.
Keep in mind that not all issues require revision surgery. It is possible that the doctor will explore non-surgical options before recommending revision surgery. If non-surgical treatments are not available or do not resolve the issue, then the doctor may recommend revision surgery to fix the issue. During revision surgery, the doctor will remove all or part of the original prosthesis and replace it with a new prosthesis.
Symptoms of a Failed Knee Replacement
Symptoms of a failed knee replacement can vary and depend on what is causing the failure. Generally, any issues with a joint replacement should be discussed with your physician. If you have had a knee replacement, stay alert for the following symptoms that may indicate a failed knee replacement.
Pain and swelling
Pain and swelling are the most common and obvious symptoms of a failed knee replacement. Pain can be restricted to one location or can be spread throughout the knee. Pain and swelling can indicate several issues, including a defective knee replacement, loosening of the implant, and infection.
A total knee replacement is supposed to make a patient feel stable and supported. Any feeling of the knee buckling or giving out can indicate a failed knee replacement.
Decrease in function or mobility
A decrease in knee function or mobility following knee replacement surgery can be a sign of knee replacement failure. Patients should pay attention to stiffness in the knee joint or a knee that is not bending properly.
Guardian Legal Network Is Here To Help
If you have experienced complications after your total knee replacement, reach out to Guardian Legal Network for help. Our network of lawyers is here to get you the help you need. An experienced lawyer will advocate for you to get you the compensation you deserve for your failed knee replacement.
- “Total Knee Replacement Surgery Information.” Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/8512-knee-replacement. Accessed September 29, 2022.
- “Total Knee Replacement.” OrthoInfo – AAOS, https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/treatment/total-knee-replacement/. Accessed September 29, 2022.
- “Knee replacement.” Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/knee-replacement/about/pac-20385276. Accessed September 29, 2022.
- “Joint Replacement Infection.” OrthoInfo – AAOS, https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/joint-replacement-infection/. Accessed September 29, 2022.