What are the Different Knee Replacement Complications?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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A knee replacement operation of any kind is a complicated and difficult procedure and there are a number of potential complications. Even so, the operation is usually successful and only a small percentage of patients suffer from any major issues. Some of the most common knee replacement complications include infection of the joint or surgical wound, instability in the knee joint, scar tissue and damage to the nerves surrounding the operation site.

Infection is a common complication in any type of surgery, but is more of a risk during complicated procedures. In most cases, antibiotics will be given during knee replacement surgery to reduce the risk, but there is always some chance that the joint will become infected. Other common knee replacement complications include the development of a blood clots or a negative reaction to the anesthetic, although these are relatively rare.

Scar tissue can occur in knee replacement surgery. If there is a large amount of scar tissue then this can reduce the range of motion of the joint and cause pain. In some cases additional surgery to remove the scar tissue is required.


If the knee joint becomes loose after a total or partial knee replacement then this can require more surgery. A loose knee joint is one of the most undesirable knee replacement complications as it can cause a large amount of instability and prevent the person from returning to everyday life. The additional surgery will help to stabilize the joint.

Aside from the potential knee replacement complications, there are also some short-term side effects. For example, the person undergoing surgery may feel sick after the anesthetic. The knee will also be sore and painful to move for up to a year after the surgery. Due to the complicated nature of the surgery there will nearly always be a scar present after the operation and this is usually permanent.

Knee replacement complications are sometimes unavoidable but it helps if the patient follows the correct physiotherapy exercise after the operation. These differ between patients but usually involve strengthening the muscles around the joint to provide greater stability. Returning to work after a knee replacement operation usually takes up to eight weeks although the patient will be able to move around the house much sooner than this. It’s also important to keep in mind that an artificial knee will last a maximum of 15 years before it needs to be replaced.


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