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How to Reduce the Risk of Complication after Joint Replacement

Feb 20, 2015

Joint replacement surgery is a safe, effective procedure that many have undergone to regain motion in their joints. This surgery is crucial for some patients who have suffered a great deal of joint damage and were unable to perform activities that they once enjoyed.

Like all major surgical procedures, there may be risks associated with joint replacement surgery. It’s important to take care of yourself properly after your surgery in order to prevent any complications that may develop.

Complications following joint replacement surgery differ from one surgery to another. These risks include blood clots, lung congestion, infection, stiffness, and implant failure.

Blood Clots: Blood clots may form after surgery, so your doctor will prescribe blood thinning medication. You may also wear compression stockings to keep blood circulating in the legs. Slow, easy movement will also prevent blood clots.

Lung Congestion: You’ll be assigned breathing exercises after your surgery to keep your lungs clear. Pneumonia is a risk after any major surgery, so these exercises were designed to prevent it.

Infection: The wound from your surgery can become infected, and in more serious cases, the joint itself could develop an infection. Antibiotics will be prescribed by your physician to reduce this risk following your procedure and prior to any medical procedures in the future.

If your joint replacement becomes infected, it may need to be removed. After the infection has cleared, you may be able to have a new joint replacement.

Stiffness: It’s normal for you to experience stiffness after joint replacement. Regular physical therapy will correct this, but if the stiffness persists, it’s important to notify your doctor.

Implant Failure: As time passes, your implant may wear out and loosen. This is why younger patients aren’t typically great candidates for joint replacement surgery. If the joint wears out, a revision surgery may be performed.

Follow Your Physician’s Directions

It’s crucial that you follow the aftercare instructions from your surgeon exactly as outlined. This includes your pain medication, antibiotics, and caring for the wound. Failure to follow instructions can result in painful infection or implant failure.

Don’t Overdo It

After your surgery, it’s important that you rest and recover for the appropriate amount of time. Your body needs to heal and get used to your new joint replacement. Participating in physical activity before you’re ready could result in injury. To avoid reinjury, make sure your home is set up so you don’t have to move more than necessary. Place all the items you need, such as the phone, easily within reach. Make a bed on the first floor so you don’t exert yourself climbing the stairs. Prepare your meals ahead of time or have someone assist you during your recovery.

Physical Therapy

Patients who are recovering from joint replacement surgery typically participate in physical therapy sessions to gain full range of motion in their new joint. This reduces stiffness and pain. Most people make a full recovery by utilizing physical therapy sessions.

Take these tips into consideration when preparing for joint replacement surgery. For more information about how to find a reputable orthopaedic surgeon, download our e-book, How to Choose an Orthopaedic Surgeon.