In more than 95% of patients a knee replacement will last up to 15 – 20 years without issue. Unfortunately, there are times when patients have significant complications following a procedure for total knee replacement soon after that surgery. This can lead to the need for additional surgeries (called revision surgeries). It can also result in long term and ongoing pain as well as an inability to bend your knee fully to a 90-degree angle even after revision surgery. Early failure in these instances can be an unfortunate risk of the surgery, caused by physician malpractice, or have something to do with the knee replacement itself. Whether there was any physician malpractice involved will require extensive review of your records and consultation with medical doctors experienced in performing knee replacement surgeries.
What are some typical signs that a knee replacement is failing?
Signs that your knee replacement is failing are: soreness and severe pain; signs of an infection such as redness, swelling, fever, chills, etc.; knee stiffness; difficulty bending the knee; difficulty walking with the knee replacement; or a feeling that your knee is unstable. Whether or not a knee replacement is failing can be determined by imaging studies such as X-Rays. Delayed treatment for a failed knee replacement can cause you significant pain and other future complications. Therefore even if there was no negligence involved in your knee replacement failing, your surgeon could still be at fault for dismissing complaints of clear signs of a failed knee replacement as typical post-surgical pain in follow up visits.
What if I am allergic to the material in my knee replacement?
Your surgeon could also commit malpractice by using a knee replacement with components to which you are allergic. Roughly 10% – 15% of the population is hypersensitive to metal. If your surgeon is aware you are allergic to a certain metal such as nickel, and that surgeon uses a knee component that has nickel in it during surgery, they can be held liable for any harm this causes you as a result. Whether your surgeon was aware of your allergies can be proven by a review of your medical records, typically by the medical history that you gave him or her.
What if my knee replacement was installed on the wrong knee?
In some instances, the wrong sided implant may be used for your knee replacement – e.g. a left knee replacement being used on your right knee. This can happen because: the hospital where the surgery was performed does not have protocols for confirming procedure sidedness before the surgery begins; similar procedures at this hospital are used for confirming hip components to confirm knee components (hip components are more often bilateral and thus the wrong sided issue is not a concern); operating room personnel did not follow a standardized process to confirm knee implant sidedness; the operating room staff focused on sizing of the knee replacement and not side.
Can a wrong sized knee replacement cause medical issues?
In other instances, a surgeon may use the wrong sized implant on your knee that can result in significant pain and/or feelings of instability in the knee. Whether or not a wrong sized implant was used can be determined by X-Rays. At a minimum, this will require a revision surgery to fix, but there can also be other long-lasting problems, especially if there is a significant delay in addressing this issue. While it may sound obvious that there was negligence when a wrong sized implant is used, it will ultimately take an orthopedic surgical expert to determine this.
As stated above, just because your knee replacement fails soon after surgery does not always indicate that there was malpractice on the part of your surgeon. It may be the result of an unfortunate risk that happened without any negligence involved, or due to a defect with the knee replacement. Therefore you will need an experienced medical malpractice attorney to go through your records and investigate your case to determine if there was negligence involved. The attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are such attorneys and are here to take your call and answer your questions at 215-525-6824.