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Knee-replacement surgery aims to provide patients with a “new knee” that will be able to last them at least several decades, and research confirms that the vast majority of knee replacements, even up to 96 percent of all cases, are still functional at the 20 year mark. Knee replacements, though built to be durable, can indeed fail or wear out. What are the circumstances under which happens, what are the signs of knee-replacement failure, and what are your options if you are suffering from one?

Circumstances Under Which Knee Replacements Fail

Knee replacements can fail for a wide variety of reasons. Infection of the site is one reason, as is practitioner incompetence leading to incorrect placement of the knee replacement. Knee-replacement failure can also be due to physical factors outside of placing surgeon’s control — stiffness can cause a patient to lose the ability to move their knee, ultimately rendering the replacement unusable, or the soft tissue around the knee replacement could be too weak to continue supporting the implant. Patients may likewise develop fractures, as the result of an injury, that lead to the failure of the knee replacement. Simple wear and tear is another reason for which knee replacements fail. Though knee-replacement implants are indeed built to last, unusual amounts of friction and use can lead to bone less and cause the implant to either wear out or loosen.

Symptoms Of Knee-Replacement Failure

Your body will let you know that there is something wrong with your knee replacement in no uncertain terms. Pain is the most common warning signal that will alarm you. Along with pain, you are likely to experience swelling, a reduction in the range of motion you are able to make with your knee, and stiffness in part or all your knee.

I Think There’s Something Wrong With My Knee Replacement: What Now?

Do not hesitate to contact your original surgeon immediately or, should this not be possible or you do not have confidence in that surgeon for some reason, another surgeon for a second opinion. You can expect a barrel of tests in order to assess the current condition of your knee replacement and the surrounding tissues, something that will then also enable your medical team to tell you what the possibilities are moving forward. X-rays, an MRI and/or CT scan, and lab tests (including to determine whether infection is present), will all be part of the diagnostic process.

Note that revision total knee replacement surgery, that is knee replacement surgery after already previously having undergone knee replacement surgery, is a much more complex procedure than the initial knee replacement. The old knee replacement will first have to be removed, you may require bone grafts, and metal wires, screws and wedges could be needed in order to make up for bone loss as well. Not only does a revision total knee replacement take longer than knee replacement surgery for this reason, this situation also explains why the success rates of revision total knee replacement are lower than the success rates of knee replacement surgery.

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