Possible Complications

Possible Complications

As with any surgical procedure, patients who undergo total joint replacement are at risk for certain complications the vast majority of which can be successfully avoided and/or treated.
Besides infection, possible complications include blood clots (the most common complication) and lung congestion, or pneumonia. Complications may require medical intervention such as additional surgery. In rare instances, complications may lead to death. Your doctor should discuss these potential complications with you. Fortunately, the vast majority of surgical complications associated with joint replacement can be successfully avoided and/or treated.

As with any major surgical procedure, patients who undergo total joint replacement may be at risk for certain complications; however, many risks can be avoided and/or treated. In fact, the complication rate following joint replacement surgery is very low: Serious complications, such as joint infection, occur in less than 2% of patients.

Possible Complications Include:


Infection can occur in the wound or within the area around the new joint. It can occur while you’re in the hospital, after you return home, or years later. Following surgery, joint replacement patients receive antibiotics to help prevent infection. For the rest of your life, you may be required to take antibiotics before undergoing even minor medical procedures to reduce the chance of infection spreading to the artificial joint.

Blood clots, also known as Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT, can result from several factors, including your decreased mobility following surgery, which slows the movement of your blood. There are a number of ways to reduce the possibility of blood clots, including:

  • Blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants)
  • Elastic support stockings that improve blood circulation in the legs
  • Plastic boots that inflate with air to promote blood flow in the legs
  • Elevating the feet and legs to keep blood circulating properly
  • Walking hourly or performing exercises as prescribed

Because a history of blood clots also puts you at risk for another one, your doctor may discuss with you the need to be on blood-thinning medications on an ongoing basis.

If you experience pain, swelling, and redness of one or both of your legs or difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention right away for further evaluation.

Lung Congestion

Pneumonia is always a risk following major surgery. To help keep the lungs clear of congestion, your health care provider may assign you a series of deep breathing exercises.