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Avoiding Infection After Knee Replacement Surgery

Doctor using tablet to check xray image of total knee replacement

What is a Knee Replacement Surgery?

Knee replacement surgery, also known as knee arthroplasty, is a procedure used to relieve pain and restore function to your knee joint.

What Happens If a Knee Replacement Gets Infected?

When a knee replacement gets infected, harmful bacteria enter the wound or body, and symptoms appear that are signs you need to see your doctor. The severity of the symptoms depends on whether it is a superficial or a deep knee infection.

How Long After a Knee Replacement Do You Have to Worry About Infection?

Any infection in your body can travel to your knee. An infection can develop when bacteria enter the body through a wound or break in your skin. Another way is from major dental surgery, such as tooth extraction or a root canal.

What Types of Infection Can Happen After Knee Replacement?

When a knee replacement infection develops in the wound after surgery, it is considered a superficial knee infection. If the infection develops around the artificial implant that was used to replace the knee joint, it is called a deep knee infection.

Who is at Risk for a Deep Knee Infection After a Knee Replacement?

Anyone with a knee replacement is at risk for a deep knee infection. It can happen from the initial surgery, other infections in the body, and many times for reasons not known. Other factors that can increase the risk for infection include:

  • Malnutrition
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Steroids
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Smoking

What Are the Symptoms of Infection After a Knee Replacement?

Symptoms of an infected joint replacement include:

  • Pain or stiffness in a previously well-functioning joint
  • Warmth and redness around the wound
  • Swelling
  • Drainage from the wound
  • Fevers
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Night Sweats

How is a Knee Infection Diagnosed?

Your doctor will order blood tests to check for infection. X-rays and bone scans will also help your doctor determine the presence of infection in the implant.

How is a Knee Infection After a Knee Replacement Treated?

Antibiotics

For superficial infection, if it is caught early, all that may be needed is antibiotics to get rid of the infection.

Debridement

Deep infections diagnosed within a few days or weeks can be cured with a procedure called debridement. The surgeon surgically removes the infected tissues. The knee implant is completely cleaned and certain parts of it are replaced. For about 6 weeks after, intravenous (IV) antibiotics are administered.

Staged surgery

If the infection is not caught early, or the infection occurs months or years after the initial surgery, a two-stage surgery is needed that includes:

First stage:

  • Removal of the implant
  • A cleaning of the infected area
  • Placement of an antibiotic spacer (cement block that’s been treated with antibiotics)
  • Intravenous (IV) antibiotics

You usually can't put any weight on the treated leg with the spacer in place.

Second stage:

A revision knee surgery is performed to remove the spacer and insert a new knee implant.

For more information on knee replacement surgery, make an appointment today with Specialty Orthopaedics in Harrison, NY. We’ll provide the most effective forms of treatment to help relieve your pain and restore your range of motion.

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