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Avoiding infection after knee replacement

Thanks to significant advances in technology and procedure techniques, most knee replacements today go off without a hitch. However, from time to time, infection is possible, though its extent varies from situation to situation. Even when I don’t anticipate infection to occur, I like my New York patients to be aware of the possibility so they can look for signs of problems and feel prepared for all situations before they go under the knife. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to infections and knee replacements.


Infection after a knee replacement surgery occurs in about one out of 100 individuals. While the likelihood of developing an infection is low, those who do experience one can face serious complications. Most infections occur in the first two years after surgery, but you’ll continue to be at risk for an infection as long as you have your replacement joint in place.


Mild to moderate itching and swelling in the surgical area is normal for the first few months following a procedure. Both before and after your surgery, we will have a conversation about what you can expect as far as a timeline for recovery. If you feel that you are falling short of hitting the goals we have discussed, that’s a red flag that an infection could be playing part. You should also keep an eye out for severe swelling, extreme fevers, chills, smelly drainage, and excessive and unbearable pain around your repaired knee.

What to do

If you experience any signs of an infection, it’s important that you seek treatment quickly. Not only will this prevent you from experiencing unnecessary discomfort, it will also prevent the infection from spreading and becoming worse. Although the signs might seem obvious and you may be tempted to treat an infection on your own, it’s best that you seek a professional opinion and care from a trained physician who can analyze the situation and determine the best course of action. In situations where the infection is mostly topical and has not spread, antibiotics will likely be prescribed. If the infection is deeper, a surgery might be required. This could involve removing the infected replacement knee and cleaning the area before replacing it or having a debridement.


Fortunately, you don’t have to leave your risk of infection up to fate. There are many things that you can do to help prevent an issue, including keeping your surgical area clean. Infections and other parts of your body can make their way down to your knees and cause trouble. One of the more common ways to develop an infection is a dental issue that goes untreated and spreads to your knee. It’s helpful for you to see your dentist before a procedure and to take care of cavities and other potential problems well in advance of a replacement.

Infections after joint replacement are rare, but they can be quite complex. If you have any questions about avoiding developing one, don’t hesitate to ask. We want you to be as healthy as possible so you can enjoy the life your new knee brings!

Posted in: Knee Replacement

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