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Medical Problems After Joint Replacement

Posted on: 12/14/2006
Concern about medical problems is increasing as more and more adults are having total hip replacements (THRs) and total knee replacements (TKRs). Heart attacks, pneumonia, and blood clots are a few of the most common causes of serious problems. Death from these complications after orthopedic surgery of this type can also occur.

Studies are ongoing to find out how often these problems occur. The first 30 to 90 days are the most critical. The number of patients affected is on the rise as the number of younger patients getting joint replacements increases. Results so far show the following incidence:
  • Death rate after THR or TKR: 2.2 per cent
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE) or lung blood clot: up to 28 per cent after THR and up
    to 10 per cent after TKR
  • Fatal PE: up to two per cent after THR or TKR
  • Pneumonia: 1.4 per cent (all cases)

    Patients and their families should be advised of signs and symptoms to watch out for. Abdominal or chest pain and shortness of breath are common complaints after surgery. Other symptoms to report include fever, cough, nausea, vomiting, back pain, and problems with breathing or urinating. Lab studies are often needed to find the cause of these symptoms.

    Early recognition of medical complications is important. The authors suggest that physicians know what to look for with each medical problem listed. Patient and family education is a key to rapid and effective treatment. The goal is to improve short- and long-term results after THR or TKR.

  • References:
    Daniel T. Alfonso, MD, et al. Nonsurgical Complications After Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty. In The American Journal of Orthopedics. November 2006. Vol. 35. No. 11. Pp. 503-511.

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