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Revision total knee replacement

4-minute read

This page will give you information about a revision total knee replacement. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is a revision total knee replacement?

A revision total knee replacement is an operation to take out your old knee replacement and put in a new one.

A knee replacement can fail for the following reasons.

  • wearing out of the artificial joint
  • infection in your knee replacement
  • dislocation (coming out of joint)
  • fracture (break) of the femur or the tibia around your knee replacement

What are the benefits of surgery?

You should be able to walk better and do more of your normal activities.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

If your symptoms are mild, you and your surgeon may decide to watch and wait for a while.

If your knee replacement keeps coming out of joint, you can wear a brace to try to keep your knee in place.

If you have an infection in your knee replacement, you can sometimes keep it under control and prevent your knee replacement from failing by taking antibiotics.

If you have a fracture around your knee replacement, you can sometimes have an operation to fix the fracture, without changing your knee replacement. You can sometimes be treated in a cast.

Illustration showing a revision total knee replacement.
A revision total knee replacement.

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible.

Your surgeon will make a cut on the front of your knee. They will remove your knee replacement and any cement.

Your surgeon will put in a new knee replacement, which is often larger than your old one.

Your knee replacement is fixed into the bone using acrylic cement or special coatings on your knee replacement that bond directly to the bone.

The type of surgery you need can be more complicated if you have an infection, or the bone is thin or broken.

What complications can happen?

Some of these can be serious and even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • unsightly scarring of your skin
  • difficulty passing urine
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung
  • chest infection
  • heart attack
  • stroke

Specific complications of this operation

  • split in the bone when your knee replacement is inserted
  • damage to ligaments or tendons near your knee
  • damage to nerves around your knee
  • damage to blood vessels around your knee
  • infection in your knee
  • loosening
  • dislocation of your knee replacement
  • continued discomfort in your knee
  • severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of your knee

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home after 4 to 7 days.

You may need to use a walking aid for a few weeks. It often takes longer to recover from a revision knee replacement than your first knee replacement.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people make a good recovery and most revision total knee replacements work well.

A revision total knee replacement can fail with time, if it wears out, or the original problem comes back.

Summary

If your original knee replacement fails, you can usually have another operation to do your knee replacement again. If this revision operation is successful, you should be able to continue many of your normal activities.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2019


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