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The Main Causes of Knee and Hip Replacement Implant Failures

Implant Surgeons at work
Joint replacement procedures are generally successful and the implants usually last a long time. According to the Bone & Joint Journal, the risk of a total knee arthroplasty (TKA) surgery failing and requiring revision surgery within 10 years is 5%. Similarly, a study funded by the same organisations found that more than 50% of hip replacements last more than 25 years.

However, there are situations where knee and hip implants fail, requiring reoperation or revision. Below we look at the main causes of knee and hip replacement implant failures, factors that increase the risk, treatment options, and situations where you may have the grounds to bring a compensation claim.

What are knee and hip implants?

Implants are medical devices manufactured to replace a damaged or missing biological structure. In the case of knee and hip replacements, the implants are designed to mimic the function of a natural joint. They are typically made of metal alloys, ceramics, or plastic materials. Implants are designed to restore mobility and relieve pain associated with arthritis or other chronic conditions.

What causes knee and hip replacement implants to fail?

Implant failure can occur due to several reasons:

  • Infection – Post-operative infection is a serious complication that can lead to implant failure. Bacteria can attach to the implant, forming a biofilm that is often resistant to antibiotics.
  • Instability – This can occur when the implant does not fit correctly or becomes loose over time. The stability of an implant is crucial to its function and lifespan.
  • Wear and Tear – All implants are subject to wear and tear over time. However, excessive wear can lead to implant failure.
  • Periprosthetic Fracture – This is a break in the bone around the components of the implant. This could be due to trauma or weakening of the bone.
  • Dislocation – Particularly in hip replacements, the ball of the prosthesis can sometimes slip out of its socket.

What factors increase the risk of implant failure?

Risk factors that can increase the chances of a knee or hip implant failing include the following:

  • Patient Age and Health – Younger patients or those with a high activity level may wear out an implant more quickly. Additionally, patients with certain health conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or obesity have higher risk rates.
  • Surgical Factors – These can include the technique used, the experience of the surgeon, and the type and fit of the implant.
  • Lifestyle Factors – Smoking, alcohol consumption, and a lack of regular exercise can also contribute to implant failure.

How are failed knee and hip implants treated?

Failed implants sometimes require a revision surgery, which involves removing the old implant and replacing it with a new one. This surgery is often more complex than the original operation due to factors such as bone loss or the presence of scar tissue. In some cases, a staged surgery may be necessary, particularly if the implant failure was due to infection.

What are total knee and total hip replacements?

Total knee replacement (TKR) and total hip replacement (THR) are surgical procedures where the entire joint is replaced with a prosthesis. TKR and THR are typically recommended for patients with severe arthritis or injury where conservative treatments have failed.

In a TKR, the surgeon removes damaged cartilage and bone from the knee joint and replaces it with an artificial joint. In a THR, the damaged hip joint is replaced with a prosthesis made of metal, plastic, or ceramic.

Is it possible to bring an injury compensation claim for failed knee or hip surgery?

Patients who have suffered due to the fitting of a knee or hip replacement implant may have the grounds to bring a compensation case in the following circumstances:

  • You Believe You Can Prove Negligence – If the surgeon’s negligence caused the implant failure, you may be able to win compensation from the healthcare provider overseeing the operation. Negligence can relate to how the surgery was performed, post-operative care, or both.
  • You Believe You Had a Defective Product Fitted – If it can be proved that the implant was poorly designed, manufactured, or labeled, a claim could potentially be made against the manufacturer. Our team at McCarthy + Co have assisted many clients with faulty DePuy Attune Knee System and Zimmer NexGen Knee Replacement products.
  • Lack of Informed Consent – If a patient wasn’t provided with enough information about the risks and benefits of the procedure, they may be able to bring a compensation claim.

Get advice from our legal team on your knee or hip replacement

If you have suffered enduring pain and discomfort following joint replacement surgery, and you believe the cause of your pain to be a negligent healthcare provider, you may have a case to bring a medical negligence claim. Call us on 1800 390 555 and an experienced member of staff will discuss your situation and potential next steps. You can also email info@mccarthy.ie and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is a seasoned solicitor with almost 20 years of experience, specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims, focusing particularly on high-value compensation cases. His extensive litigation experience spans Circuit Court, High Court and Supreme Court levels. John's practice involves a diverse range of cases, from personal injury and wrongful death to property damage, defective products, professional negligence and judicial reviews.

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