New Jersey Knee and Hip Replacement Injury Lawyers Discuss what Happens when Complications Arise after Implant Surgery
Hip and knee replacement surgery are routine, especially among those between 45 and 65. According to a 2021 American Orthopedic Surgeons study of 2,244,587 hip and knee replacement surgeries over eight years, from 2012 to 2020, hip and knee arthroplasty procedures increased 18.3% over last year alone. The increase may be due to a number of factors, including the aging American population, increased obesity, and longer lifespans. Generally, however, painful joints from a life of traumatic injuries from sports, heavy exercise, or vehicle accidents may be the reason for surgery. Some require or choose to undergo replacement surgery based on other health-related factors, such as arthritis or congenital diseases. Although most replacement surgeries relieve or minimize a person’s chronic pain after recovery, some can make things worse due to a doctor’s malpractice or a defective device. When doctors make serious errors during surgery, bad decisions before the operation, fail to follow up after a hip or knee replacement, or other forms of negligence, patients may experience unanticipated complications. If this happened to you or someone close to you in New Jersey, you may want to know what precisely happened and whether you may be able to file a lawsuit.
Common Reasons for Hip and Knee Replacement
First, patients should know that hip and knee replacements are common because people experience wear and tear on the joints as they age. Aging comes with less plasticity in the joints and often, subsequent pain and stiffness. Arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis also accompany the aging process, leading to surgery in the two main joints likely to be replaced, the hip and the knee. The hip and knee joints are where two or several bones meet and rub against one another in motion. The hip is a ball and socket joint that causes continual friction when the body is in motion. With time, the cartilage covering of the bones or ball wears down, causing bones to grate against each other and lead to painful swelling. The majority of surgeons and patients opt to wait if possible before undergoing surgery, first trying less invasive treatments, such as physical therapy, cortisone injections, and pain or anti-inflammatory medications. When the pain becomes too great, surgery may be the solution.
Knee and Hip Replacement Surgery Complications
A hip or knee replacement may be total or partial. In a complete replacement, the surgeon removes parts of the joint or the whole joint and replaces it with a knee or hip-shaped prosthesis made of plastic or metal, sometimes ceramic. For example, hip replacement typically involves replacing the ball with a metal or ceramic ball and the socket with a metal cup, both customized to the patient’s size and pelvic shape. For knee replacements, the surgeon planes the surface of the femur bone to fit the new knee that gets cemented into place or coated with bone growth promoting material.
If surgery is the best option, the process should include a thorough intake for the person undergoing the procedure, including their past and current health condition. The surgery itself usually takes slightly more than two hours, barring unforeseen complications. If all goes well, the person can be up and around in several days, unless of course complications occur. Common complications from hip and knee replacements include blood clots, nerve injury, stiffness, irregular heart rate, pneumonia, stroke, and heart attack. Blood clots, the more common complication due to the surgeon damaging a blood vessel or the patient remaining immobile for too long, can be life-endangering. Blood clots can obstruct vessels in the heart, lungs, or limbs. Doctors usually prescribe blood thinners post-surgery to avoid blood clots.
Other hip replacement complications include leg length differentials, hip dislocation, infection, fractures, and metal poisoning from a metal-on-metal prosthesis. Metallosis, or metal poisoning, can severely damage tissue, leading to further corrective surgery. Some complications require repeated repair surgeries, which increases anesthesia and recovery risks. A related condition, osteolysis, results from particles and tissue from the rubbing prosthetic joint moving into the joint’s surrounding tissue, causing inflammation and disintegrating tissue.
Lawsuits for Knee or Hip Replacement Negligence in New Jersey
Human error-related complications after hip or knee replacement surgery may be apparent immediately or occur over time, such as nerve injury or bleeding. Joint prosthesis dislocation, pain, and loosening joints are the most common complaints against negligent surgeons. With some hip replacement errors, the ball implant loosens from the socket and may require another surgery to fix the dislocation if it happens too often. Unfortunately, the risk of dislocation increases after revision surgery. Other negligently-induced complications include when bone growth impacts neighboring tissue, causing pain around the prosthesis. This condition is called heterotopic ossification.
In addition, fractures of bones surrounding the prosthesis and nerve damage to surrounding vessels and nerves occur most often when the surgeon installs the implant. Improperly placed cement that holds the implant can cause it to loosen and require corrective surgery. Likewise, joint infections at the surgical site can gravely sicken a patient or cause their death. In that case, a surgeon may need to clean the wound or take the implant out.
Moreover, patients with underlying conditions, such as diabetes or obesity, can significantly increase the risk of complications. As such, physicians must consider a patient’s underlying conditions before recommending replacement surgery. To be unprepared for difficulties due to preexisting conditions may constitute medical malpractice. Unbeknownst to many, heart disease causes a significant number of patients to die within three months of hip replacement surgery. Second to heart disease as a leading cause of post-hip replacement surgery is pulmonary embolism. However, physicians who know a patient has heart disease can treat the heart disease before hip or knee arthroplasty to reduce the risk of death.
Lastly, careful advice to a patient about remaining idle after surgery, plus blood thinners help reduce the risk of clots that block lung vessels. Even short of death, knee and hip replacement patients may suffer chronic pain post replacement surgery when the implant does not fit well or the surgeon handling the case commits one or more acts of negligence. In addition, revision surgeries can take an enormous toll on a person’s mental and physical health as their bodies endure another surgical trauma. As is to be expected, each surgery generally takes longer to heal for older adults.
Seek Help with Your Hip or Knee Replacement Claim by Contacting our NJ Malpractice Attorneys
If you believe your medical team was negligent in preparing for or performing knee or hip replacement surgery in New Jersey, seek counsel from the medical injury lawyers at Fronzuto Law Group today. Our attorneys are highly experienced with complicated malpractice litigation, can evaluate your claim, and advise you of your options. Filing a lawsuit for complications after hip or knee replacement may mean those negligent are required to compensate you. Our firm is prepared to help you determine if you are eligible for compensation, assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and ensure that every aspect of the legal process is carefully prepared for and executed. There are time limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in New Jersey, so you are best served by taking action as soon as possible.