What are the Complications and Side Effects of Total Knee Replacement Surgery?

complications of knee replacement surgery

Knee replacement surgeries help enhance mobility, resume activities, and lower knee pain. However, knowing the possible total knee replacement complications post-surgery, like stiffness, deterioration of the implant, clicking, likely infection, and blood clots, is essential. The procedure usually is highly effective, with rare problems occurring only within 2% of individuals

Complications in Total Knee Replacement (TKR) Surgery

The following are some of the potential total knee replacement complications of surgery that need to be well attended to and taken care of. Second, revision surgery may be needed in a small proportion of patients. Complications are found to be more common in patients who are obese or older or who use tobacco.

Complications From Anesthesia

Similar to any major surgery using general anaesthesia, a low risk is present for strokes, pneumonia, heart attacks, and blood clots.

Blood clots happening in deep veins, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), are a likely complication of TKR. Left unattended, a blood clot can escape from the vein wall and result in pulmonary embolism, a condition which needs urgent attention. With timely detection, pulmonary embolism can be treated with anti-clotting medication. Gadgets that can be encased around the afflicted leg to offer intermittent pneumatic compression can lower the chances of DVT.

Can Cause Infection

All surgeries need incisions - cuts that permit surgeons to slit a region of the body and perform repairs. This implies infection is probable - though the chances are slim.

When infections do occur, they’re regarded as serious. That’s why it’s essential to observe the care guidelines provided to you by your physician, like keeping your wound dry and clean and consuming any suggested antibiotics. In case of any growing redness, pain, or swelling, you should contact your doctor immediately.

Continuing Knee Pain

A slight discomfort immediately following surgery is natural. Your body may need some time to adapt to your knee replacement. Generally, the pain after TKR surgery decreases within two to three months, though improvement can be noticed every week.

Nonetheless, persistent knee pain after TKR surgery can recur in some people. When this occurs, your doctor will collaborate with you to design a treatment schedule, which may involve extra physical therapy, medicines, or cognitive behavioural therapy.

Lasting Knee Stiffness

The knee replacements side effects are stiffness and swelling that persist for some months following surgery. Inflammation and stiffness are standard following surgery and help your body to recover and adapt to your current knee or knees. But occasionally, that stiffness can continue.

Longstanding stiffness generally results from too much scar tissue. Frequently, the absence of exercise or use can lead to scar tissue accumulation in the soft tissue near the joint. Physical therapy after surgery is often recommended for this reason. Mobility is a must for your joints.

Your doctor’s advice regarding movement and adhering to your physical therapy plan can manage the accumulation of stiffness and scar tissue. However, if you undergo permanent stiffness, your doctor may suggest additional treatments like joint manipulation or additional physical therapy.

Failure of Implant

Knee implants are designed to be permanent. However, a small probability exists for failure of the implant. This happens if the replacement joint is unable to function properly. Usually, continuing pain and stiffness can be indications of implant failure.

Instability, infection or stiffness are regarded as the most popular reasons for implant failure. Other reasons can comprise a problem with the implant itself, such as aseptic loosening and a fracture. Aseptic loosening is a situation when the bond supporting the implant in position gets unfastened from wear and tear.

Side Effects of TKR Surgery

The most popular knee replacement side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Shivering
  • Aches and pains
  • Sore throat
  • Drowsiness
  • Discomfort

Other likely effects comprise:

  • Breathing problems
  • Nerve injury
  • Allergic reactions

How To Manage The Side Effects After TKR Surgery

After TKR surgery, you can experience pain during the initial few weeks, for which your surgeon may prescribe a combination of pain medications, OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and acetaminophen for pain relief. Always follow the instructions of your surgeon to mitigate the TKR results and accelerate the recovery process.

Handling Swelling

Swelling is a natural way of healing, and many people undergo severe to bearable pain in the initial weeks or days post-surgery. Moderate swelling can also persist for 3-6 months post-surgery.

Putting on compression stockings, maintaining the elevation of your legs, and using topical applications can bring relief. It can be effective to try cold compresses or ice packs to lower inflammation in the knee joint and the tissue around it.

Managing Bruising

Bruising surrounding the knee can remain for two weeks post-surgery and can be in the form of discolouration indicative of accumulation of blood beneath the skin. You can regulate bruising through the elevation of your leg.

Performing Physical Therapy

Physical therapists may utilise devices like Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) to trigger blood circulation and subside nerve pain within your knee and the nearby area. They may also offer massages or demonstrate the way to perform muscle and tissue stimulation around your knee,

Stick To Your Exercises

The physical therapist will suggest exercises to support your muscles, improve movement, and raise blood circulation surrounding your knee. All this helps in healing and reduces the fluid from the tissue causing distress.

When Should You Consult With Your Doctor?

Consult your doctor regarding knee replacement surgery if you undergo any of the specified symptoms:

  • Daily activities like climbing stairs or walking get painful and difficult
  • Persistent and acute knee pain
  • When you notice your knee curving inwards or outwards
  • The knees get either swollen or stiff or both
  • Muscle atrophy and bone loss happen before major deformity
  • Patients having joint instability and deformity should undergo surgery sooner instead of later.

You must even consult your doctor regarding a knee replacement surgery when the drugs or different treatments for arthritis suggested to you don’t work for your knees any longer and display the above symptoms.


Total knee replacement complications and side effects after surgery by way of infection, swelling, inflexibility, wound healing problems and consistent pain do exist. However, it can be managed optimally by addressing its side effects, following your surgeon’s advice, performing physical therapy, and taking medications, which can all help speed up your recovery.