Risks and Complications of Total Knee Replacement Surgery


Knee replacements have emerged as a mainstream surgery. According to the Agency for Research and Quality (AHRQ), over 600,000 procedures were performed in 2009. That number is expected to grow into the millions by the year 2030. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), serious complications occur in less than 2 percent of cases. However, it’s still important to be aware of the risks before you enter the operating room.

The 30-day mortality rate for a total knee replacement (TKR) is about 1 in 400 or 0.25 percent. That means that 99.75 percent of those who undergo this surgery survive the treatment. Researchers in the U.K. reported in The Bone & Joint Journal that they looked at almost 2,500 people who had a TKR over a 10-year span. They found that 99 percent survived at least one year. Ninety percent were alive after five years. Eighty-four percent were still living after 10 years. Overall, mortality rates are highest in the 30 to 90 days following surgery.

Relatively few complications happen during the hospital stay after a TKR. Healthline analyzed data on over 1.5 million Medicare and privately insured people to take a closer look at these complications. Based on this analysis, 4.5 percent of those who’ve had a TKR and are under the age of 65 experience complications during this period. However, the same data set showed that the complication rate more than doubled for older adults.

About 1 percent of people get a postoperative infection. The same-day death rate for this same group is extremely rare (0.001 percent). Blood clots are a risk, as they are with most orthopedic surgeries, but common preventative measures have reduced their risk. Less than 2 percent of people get them now. Cases of osteolysis — when plastic or metal fragments are released from the knee implant into the body and cause inflammation — are also uncommon.

However, this procedure does come with possible complications.

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