North Hampshire Hospital
The Hampshire Clinic
Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK

Mr John Britton FRCS
Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Information for patients undergoing orthopaedic treatment



Expectations of knee replacement

Knee replacement is generally a highly successful operation. Most patients can expect:

  • Relief of pain both on walking and at rest

  • Increased mobility; walking distance following knee replacement is usually unlimited

  • Ability to do many everyday activities such as gardening or playing golf

  • More energetic activities such as playing tennis or skiing may be possible but are not generally recommended. Playing squash and running marathons are not recommended!

Whilst the vast majority of patients are happy with their replacements you should be aware that complications can occur. Furthermore knee replacements themselves can 'wear out' and an initially successful replacement may fail at a later date. The important complications of which you should be aware are:

  • Infection: Although uncommon (<1%) deep infection is a devastating complication that may require removal of the knee replacement. Superficial wound infections are more common but can normally be treated with antibiotics

  • Thrombo-embolic problems: Blood clots may form in the leg after surgery resulting in a DVT. In this event you may require treatment with a blood thinning drug such as warfarin. Extremely rarely the blood clot in the leg become detached and travel to the lung resulting in a potentially fatal pulmonary embolus

  • Nerve / vessel injury: This is an extremely rare operative complication

  • Limp: A pre-operative limp will not always resolve

  • Aches: Some patients experience mild discomfort following surgery

  • Allergy: Allergic responses to the replacement have been reported; these appear to be extremely rare

  • Fracture: Fracture around the prosthesis may occur. This may happen when the replacement is being inserted or may result from a fall at a later date

  • Loosening / prosthesis wear: With time the knee replacement may fail. The most common mode of failure is for the replacement to lose its fixation in the bone; this may or may not be associated with infection. Alternatively the bearing surface of the replacement may wear out.
    In either event further surgery will be required to insert a new knee replacement

Whilst this list of complications may seem alarming it should be remembered that the majority of patients get excellent, long lasting pain relief from their replacements. Although the incidence of loosening increases with time most replacements last many years. Scientific studies have shown that 90-95% of knee replacements will last 10 years.



J M Britton 2007

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