Risks and Complications
As with any major surgery, there are potential risks involved. The decision to proceed with the surgery is made because the advantages of surgery outweigh the potential disadvantages. It is important that you are informed of these risks before the surgery takes place.
Complications can be medical (general) or local complications specific to the Knee. Medical complications include those of the anaesthetic and your general well being. Almost any medical condition can occur so this list is not complete. Complications may include:
Allergic reactions to medications – There may be a risk of adverse reactions in relation to the medications used during and post-surgery recovery.
Blood loss requiring transfusion – There is a low risk of disease transmission through blood transfusions.
Infection – Infection can occur with any operation. In the knee this can be superficial or deep. Infection rates are approximately 1%. If it occurs, it can be treated with antibiotics but may require further surgery.
Blood Clots – These can form in the calf muscles and can travel to the lung (Pulmonary embolism). These can occasionally be serious and even life threatening. If you get calf pain or shortness of breath at any stage, you should notify your nursing staff and surgeon immediately.
Knee stiffness – Ideally, your knee should bend beyond 115 degrees but on occasion, may not bend as well as expected. Sometimes further manipulations and treatment are required
Wear and tear – Over time, the plastic liner eventually wears out. This may take 10 to 15 years and may need to be replaced.
Bone breaks – Fractures or breaks can occur during surgery or afterwards if you fall. To repair these, you may require surgery.
Wound irritation – The operation will always cut some skin nerves, so you will inevitably have some numbness around the wound. This does not affect the function of your knee joint. You can also get some aching around the scar. Vitamin E cream and massaging can help reduce this. Occasionally, you can get reactions to the sutures or a wound breakdown that may require antibiotics or rarely, further surgery.
Cosmetic appearance – The knee may look different than it was because it is put into the correct alignment to allow proper function.
Leg length inequality – Your leg will be restored to its original length as the deformity caused by wearing of the knee has been corrected.
Ligament injuries – There are a number of ligaments surrounding the knee. These ligaments can be torn during surgery or break or stretch out any time afterwards. Surgery may be required to correct this problem. This problem is minimised with Robotic Assistance.
Damage to nerves and blood vessels – These may be damaged at the time of surgery. If recognised they are repaired but a second operation may be required. Nerve damage can cause a loss of feeling or movement below the knee and can be permanent.
Nerve damage – These may stem from nerve blocks such as infection or nerve damage.
Other complications – Stroke, heart attacks, kidney failure, pneumonia and bladder infections.
Serious medical problems can lead to ongoing health concerns, prolonged hospitalisation or rarely death.