Knee replacement surgery has become an extremely popular procedure over the last few years, with over 600,000 being performed annually in the United States. Knee replacement surgery is often prescribed as a way to treat the pain and decrease in mobility from degenerative arthritis or trauma. But do you really need a knee replacement? As with any form of surgery, knee replacement does come with its fair share of risks. It is important that you understand what can go wrong before you go ahead with this treatment.
Risks Associated with Knee Replacement Surgery
1. Anesthesia can Cause Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
As with most major surgical procedures, some form of anesthesia will be used so that you will not feel pain during your operation. In most cases, being placed under anesthetic is relatively safe and will cause no problems; however, there remains the potential for side effects and negative reactions. Some of the more common effects and adverse reactions are:
1. Nausea and vomiting
4. Inflammation of the windpipe
5. Damage to teeth
6. Injury to the vocal cords
7. Injury to the arteries
8. Irregular heartbeat
Prior to undergoing knee replacement surgery, it will be important to review the medications you take to ensure that they do not interfere with the anesthetic. This includes both over-the-counter drugs and prescribed ones.
2. Surgery Presents Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism Risks
Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are medical terms for blood clots. Deep vein thrombosis is the term for blood clots in the legs and pulmonary embolism is a term for blood clots in the lungs. All surgeries increase the risk of blood clots, but orthopedic procedures like knee replacement surgery increase that risk. Usually blood clots will occur within the first two weeks after surgery. Blood clots have the potential to break off and be carried to the heart or lungs where they can bring about potentially fatal conditions. You should find out about the symptoms of a blood clot so that you can seek emergency medical help should one occur. Note that smoking over being overweight can increase your risk.
3. There is the Potential for Infection
Both diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis reduce the effectiveness of your immune system. If you have one or both of these conditions, your immune system may be weakened and you face a higher risk of infection after knee replacement surgery. In some cases, an infection in the patient’s body at the time of the surgery can cause the replaced knee to become infected months or years after the surgery.
4. Implants Can Fail
A prosthetic knee can fail in a number of ways including not bending correctly after being implanted, or it can become loose. If the prosthetic knee loosens, it will need to be adjusted. Along with these potential problems, it is important to remember that these implants do not last forever. Prosthetic knees can wear out or break. In some cases, the fault may be with the manufacturer or the design. Usually, these failures will occur within a few weeks of the surgery. When knee replacements fail, they must be corrected via a revision surgery.
5. Osteolysis Can Occur
In some patients, the plastic (polyethylene) pieces of the implant can generate particles that activate the body's immune system. The white blood cells may attack the particles and digest them; unfortunately, the white blood cells may also attack and digest bone. This can cause bone damage and the loosening of the implant, which will make revision surgery necessary.
Are There Alternative Treatments?
Yes! There are several knee replacement alternatives available for people who suffer from mild to severe knee pain. Even if your doctor has indicated your only option is a knee replacement, these alternative treatments are worth considering given the problems associated with surgery.
Knee replacement surgery is not a quick fix, nor is it a pain-free one. Recovery can be long, agonizing and may not provide satisfactory results. When considering this procedure, it is important to look carefully at the alternatives. Alternatives exist that do not necessitate the use of anesthetics and which do not involve a long recovery period.
As with any form of medical treatment, you should consult with your physician before embarking on any treatment plan. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed accurate for the purposes of diagnosing your particular medical condition.