Healthy Living

Total Knee Replacement Surgery Risks and Complications

Approximately 1 in 4 adults suffer from chronic knee pain, making everyday tasks feel nearly impossible at times. If you’re tired of the pain, you might consider scheduling a full knee replacement to make movement easier for you.

However, any time you go under the knife, there is the risk of complications. Before you decide to get a total knee replacement, it is important to fully understand what could go wrong in the worst-case scenario. Continue reading to learn about knee replacement surgery risks so you can make an informed decision about your treatment plan.

Anesthesia Complications

Before your surgery, you’ll need general or local anesthesia so that you’re not awake or feeling any pain during the procedure. While, most of the time, anesthesia is completely safe, it can have some side effects. You may experience the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Allergic reaction
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Sore throat
  • Shivering

To help reduce the risk of anesthesia complications, be sure to tell your doctor about any prescriptions and supplements that you take. Some medications can react or interfere with the anesthesia, causing issues during the procedure.

Ongoing Knee Pain

In most cases, the whole point of getting a total knee replacement is to eliminate the pain in your joint. Unfortunately, one of the most common knee surgery complications is ongoing pain. Immediately after your surgery, it’s normal to experience some discomfort. After all, it will take your body some time to adjust to the replacement.

In most cases, you should notice that the pain lessens each week. Once you’re two to three months out from your surgery, you shouldn’t notice much pain anymore. However, some people continue to notice lingering pain, even months later. In this case, you’ll need to work with your doctor on a treatment plan that could include physical therapy or medication.


After your surgery, you’ll have incisions on your leg from where the doctor went in to make repairs. Your doctor will give you care instructions to help keep the incisions clean, but there’s always a risk of infection. While an infection may not sound serious at first, it can quickly become dangerous.

Try your best to keep your wounds dry and clean and take antibiotics if your doctor prescribes them. If you notice any swelling, redness, or pain around the incision marks, contact your doctor immediately. Those are the first signs that an infection is forming, and you should consider an ACL Surgeon.

Long-Term Stiffness

Just like it’s common to feel a bit sore after your procedure, you’ll likely feel stiff for a bit as well. This is normal, as it’s a sign that your body is recovering and getting used to your new knee. It’s a more serious issue, however, if the stiffness lasts beyond a few months. In that case, you may have excessive scar tissue around your joint.

If you notice ongoing stiffness, be sure to talk to your doctor about relief options. In many cases, attending physical therapy after your surgery can help build up the soft tissue around your knee, relieving some of the stiffness.

Implant Failure

One of the more serious risks of knee surgery is implant failure. While knee implants are designed to last a long time and seamlessly integrate into your body, that’s not always how it happens. Sometimes, the replacement joint doesn’t end up working correctly, leading to stiffness, infections, and pain, as we mentioned above.

In some cases, it’s even worse than that. There’s a potential for issues with the replacement itself. In fact, some brands have even been recalled for issues leading to cases like the Exactech lawsuit. Before scheduling your procedure, be sure to ask questions about the replacement joint you’ll be getting. Your doctor should be able to tell you if there are any known issues with it.

Blood Clots

Another serious risk of having surgery is developing blood clots. While this is a potential complication after any surgery, it can happen more often after orthopedic surgeries. In most cases, symptoms of a blood clot will appear within the two weeks following your surgery, so stay alert.

If a blood clot travels through your bloodstream, it could eventually lead to a blockage in your lungs, which can become fatal. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of developing blood clots. First, talk to your doctor about blood-thinning medications.

Then, take actions to improve your circulation like wearing compression socks and doing light leg exercises to keep the blood flowing and prevent the formation of clots.

Damaged Nerves or Blood Vessels

Finally, be aware that during knee replacement surgery, the tissue, nerves, or veins around your knee may suffer damage. While this isn’t always a serious issue, it’s still something you want to be aware of before deciding to get surgery.

If you have damaged nerves or blood vessels, you might notice pain or numbness around your knee following the surgery. In most cases, this will eventually heal over time. If it persists, you can talk to your doctor about options to help remedy the issue.

Understanding Knee Replacement Surgery Risks

Deciding to get surgery to help improve your overall quality of life is no small undertaking. After reading this article and learning about the different knee replacement surgery risks, we hope you feel more confident about making the best decision for your knees. Whatever you decide, you’ll be making a more informed decision, which is most important of all.

Interested in reading more content like this? Take some time to browse through our other articles before you go!


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