Understand the risks and potential complications

What are the potential risks in joint replacement surgery?

Most operations are performed without incident, and the complication rate following hip replacement surgery is very low. For a first-time (primary) hip replacement, serious complications requiring a second operation (revision), in the first year after surgery, occur in less than 1% of patients4.

However, all operations carry some risks and, although everything will be done to keep these to a minimum, you should be aware of them before agreeing to have an operation.

When you have total joint replacement surgery, some of the risks are outlined below.

Joint infection. Infection may occur in the wound or within the area around the new joint, and can happen in the hospital, after you return home, or even years later. After your joint replacement surgery, you’ll receive antibiotics to help prevent infection. You may also need to take antibiotics before undergoing any future medical procedures to reduce the chance of infection spreading to the artificial joint.

Dislocation. Dislocation is when the hip implant comes out of the socket. Your new hip implant may be at greater risk of dislocating than a natural hip, and your surgeon or physiotherapist will go through precautions you should take to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

Lung congestion. Pneumonia and other lung issues are a risk following any major surgery. To help keep the lungs clear of congestion, you may be given a series of deep breathing exercises.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Blood clots can result from not moving around, such as when you are resting in bed after surgery. Your surgeon may prescribe measures to prevent DVT such as getting mobile as early as possible, special support stockings, inflatable leg coverings, ankle pump exercises and blood thinning medication.

There are other potential complications that occur infrequently as a result of joint replacement surgery, you can find out more about them by speaking to your doctor.

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