As with any major surgical procedure, patients who undergo total joint replacement may be at risk for certain complications; however, many risks can be avoided and/or treated. In fact, the complication rate following joint replacement surgery is very low: Serious complications, such as joint infection, occur in less than 2% of patients.
Besides infection, possible complications include blood clots (the most common complication) and lung congestion, or pneumonia. Complications may require medical intervention such as additional surgery. In rare instances, complications may lead to death. Your doctor should discuss these potential complications with you. Fortunately, the vast majority of surgical complications associated with joint replacement can be successfully avoided and/or treated.
Preventing Possible Complications of Surgery
The complication rate following joint replacement surgery is very low. Serious complications, such as joint infection, occur in less than 2% of patients. Nevertheless, as with any major surgical procedure, patients who undergo total joint replacement are at risk for certain complications—many of which can be successfully avoided and/or treated.
Possible complications include:
Infection: Infection may occur in the wound or within the area around the new joint. It can occur in the hospital, after the patient returns home, or years later. Following surgery, joint replacement patients receive antibiotics to help prevent infection. Joint replacement patients may also need to take antibiotics before undergoing any medical procedures to reduce the chance of infection spreading to the artificial joint.
Blood Clots: Blood clots can result from several factors, including the patient’s decreased mobility following surgery, which slows the movement of the blood. There are a number of ways to reduce the possibility of blood clots, including:
- Blood thinning medications (anticoagulants)
- Elastic support stockings that improve blood circulation in the legs
- Plastic boots that inflate with air to promote blood flow in the legs
- Elevating the feet and legs to keep blood from pooling
- Walking hourly
Lung Congestion: Pneumonia is always a risk following major surgery. To help keep the lungs clear of congestion, patients are assigned a series of deep breathing exercises.