Chances of Death after Joint Replacement

When it comes to serious problems after an operation, you can't get more serious than death. Before having an operation, many patients want to know their chances of dying. They don't always ask the question, but they may wonder and worry about it. The doctor reviews the risks and counsels each patient.

What do we know about the risk of death after joint replacements? According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk of death within 90 days of the operation varies based on the joint that is replaced.

  • Hip: The risk of dying is 0.29 percent. Risk factors include being older than 70, being male, and having a history of heart disease.
  • Knee: The risk of dying is 0.2 percent. Risk factors include older age, heart disease, cemented implants, and having both knees replaced at the same time.
  • Shoulder: The risk of dying is 0.58 percent. Risk factors include fracture and hemiarthroplasty (having only part of shoulder replaced).

    The information about the shoulder comes from a recent study of nearly 3,000 patients. All received a shoulder replacement. Researchers reviewed their records after 90 days. Only 17 patients out of 2,953 died. Most died from complications of cancer, which caused a shoulder fracture in the first place.

    Pneumonia, heart attack, infection, and internal bleeding were other causes of death after a shoulder replacement operation. The researchers conclude that it's not the operation that kills the patient. It's more likely an underlying problem, such as cancer or heart disease.

  • Reference: 

    Christopher B. White, MD, et al. Ninety-Day Mortality after Shoulder Arthroplasty. In Journal of Arthroplasty. October 2003. Vol. 18. No. 7. Pp. 886-888.

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