Infected Hip or Knee Replacements

The majority of patients who undergo hip or knee replacement surgery experience pain relief and improved function in the joint.

However, all surgical procedures carry risks, and a small percentage of patients develop an infection after the procedure. Infected joint replacements often require additional surgical procedures to treat the infection and repair joint damage caused by the infection.

Dr. Niels Linschoten specializes in the treatment of infected hip and knee replacements. In fact, many patients are referred to Dr. Linschoten because of his experience in treating infected joint replacements and other complex cases.

How Do Hip & Knee Replacements Become Infected?

Every surgical procedure carries a risk of complications, including hip and knee replacements. Although only about 1 in 100 patients develop an infection after a hip or knee replacement, it is important to take every possible precaution to avoid developing an infection, as an infection could lead to the need for additional surgery.

Infections happen when bacteria enters the body, and the immune system is unable to adequately fight off that bacteria. If the bacteria reaches the implants, it is more difficult to fight off the infection because the hip and knee implants are made of metal and plastic. If you have an infection anywhere in your body, it can spread to your joint replacement.

Infections most commonly arise from surgical wounds, cuts in the skin, and dental procedures like tooth extractions and root canals. Patients with immune deficiencies, diabetes, or poor circulation to the hands and feet have an increased risk of developing an infection. Obesity and immunosuppressive treatments like chemotherapy or corticosteroids can also increase the risk of an infection.

Infections often occur during surgery or in the weeks following surgery, but they can also occur years after a hip or knee replacement.

Signs and Symptoms of an Infected Joint Replacement

It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of an infected joint replacement so that you can get treatment as soon as possible.

Symptoms of an infected joint replacement include swelling of the joint, redness and warmth around the surgical wound, and wound drainage. Fatigue, fever, chills, and night sweats can also indicate an infection. If your hip or knee replacement is functioning well, but you begin to experience pain and stiffness in the joint, it could be a sign of an infection.

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment of an infection is key—the longer you wait to get treatment, the greater the chance that you will need to have surgery to clear the infection.

Treating Infected Hip & Knee Replacements

Treatment for an infected hip or knee replacement can vary based on the severity of the infection. If the infection is detected early and only affects the skin and soft tissues around the joint, it can often be treated with intravenous (IV) or oral antibiotics. This type of infection is called a superficial infection. In most cases, superficial infections do not require additional surgery.

If the infection does spread deep within the artificial joint, however, surgery is often required. In some cases, if the infection is detected early enough, it can be cleared with a surgical washout of the joint. This procedure is called debridement. During the procedure, Dr. Linschoten removes the infected soft tissues surrounding the hip or knee and replaces the plastic spacer, leaving the original metal components in the joint. Following the procedure, patients are prescribed IV antibiotics for about 6 weeks.

If the infection has been present for a longer period of time or occurs months or years after joint replacement surgery, the metal implants often need to be removed and replaced to cure the infection. This typically requires a staged process to remove the implant, clear the infection, and replace the implant.

First, the implant is removed, and the joint and soft tissues are washed out to remove infected tissue. Next, an antibiotic spacer is put in place of the metal implant. Antibiotic spacers are made from bone cement loaded with antibiotics, which can flow into the joint and surrounding tissues to assist in clearing the infection. After this stage is complete, patients typically need at least 6 weeks of IV antibiotics to eliminate the infection. Once the infection is cleared, Dr. Linschoten proceeds with revision surgery to replace the hip or knee implant.

Infected Joint Replacement Treatment in Baton Rouge, LA

Dr. Niels Linschoten has over 25 years of experience in orthopaedic surgery. He often treats patients with complex cases, including infected joint replacements. If you would like to learn more about treatment of infected joint replacements or schedule an appointment with Dr. Linschoten, please call our office at (225) 478-8722.