What is a knee replacement?
The knee is made up of a complicated set of tendons, muscles, ligaments, and bones. When the joints become damaged by either progressive arthritis, trauma, or other destructive diseases; it can cause severe pain that limits everyday activities or even moderate to severe pain while resting during the day or night. In these circumstances, knee replacement surgery can help restore quality of life.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedics, more than 700,000 total knee replacement surgeries are performed each year in the United States, and nearly 90% of patients who undergo knee replacement report a dramatic reduction of knee pain following surgery. Knee implants allow for normal activities and motion and typically last 15 to 20 years or more.
There are more than a dozen manufacturers of artificial knee implants. A variety of issues can cause knee replacement failures.
Knee Replacement Complications
Knee implants are designed to last 15 years or more. When unexpected loosening of the tibial plate occurs, it causes extreme pain and swelling. Often, painful revision surgery is required to remove and replace the device. Complications of revision surgery include bone loss, muscle damage, nerve damage, and infection.
Signs of knee implant failure include:
- Instability when standing or the feeling like the knee is going to give out backward or sideways.
- Popping, clicking, or crunching sounds coming from the implant.
- Heat or warmth around the knee joint.
- Joint pain and/or swelling.
- Decreased range of motion.
What happens if I experience a failed knee replacement?
If you experience an increase in pain or a decrease in knee mobility, along with swelling around the knee, your knee implant may have loosened and failed. When knee replacement failure occurs, you may require revision surgery.
During knee replacement revision surgery, your defective knee implant is removed. Bone grafts are used to fill any voids left by bone deterioration where your old implant was located. Most knee replacement revision surgeries take longer than the original surgery.
Because revision joint surgeries are more complex, there is a greater chance for surgery-related complications, including:
- Drainage at the wound site
- Damage to nerves or blood vessels
- Fractures that cannot be repaired
- Blood clots including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs)
In rare cases, revision surgery may not be an option due to severe injury or severe infection. In these cases, surgeons may recommend amputation (the surgical removal of the leg) or fusion of the knee joint. However, the latter will render the knee unable to bend.
Knee Implant Recalls
More than 700 knee replacement recalls were issued since 2003, according to the advocacy group Consumers Union. In recent years, manufacturers of knee implants and components, including Johnson & Johnson subsidiary DePuy Synthes and Zimmer Biomet, have issued recalls due to problems, including high rates of implant failures requiring revision surgery.
- June 2018: Smith & Nephew recall 42,050 Journey I BCS Knee Systems due to higher than normal revision rates caused by early loosening of components and other problems.
- February 2017: Zimmer Biomet recalls 28,253 various polyethylene implants and Repicci II Tibial Components used in partial knee replacement due to high endotoxin levels in the components.
- December 2017: DePuy recalls 2,110 Sigma HP PFJ Cemented Trochlear implants, a standalone component of the partial knee system, due to the high rate of revision surgery.
- May 2016: Zimmer recalls 10,256 Persona Trabecular Metal Tibial Plate instruments and brackets due to increased complaints of radiolucent lines (intervals between the cement and bone) loosening.
- June 2016: Stryker Orthopaedics recalls 12,469 Modular Handle Triathlon Instruments, part of the Triathlon Partial Knee Replacement system because the instruments come apart during surgery.
- January 2015: Zimmer recalls 11,658 Persona Trabecular Metal Tibial Plate/Personal TM Tibia devices due to increased complaints of radiolucent lines (intervals between the cement and bone) loosening.
- March 2015: DePuy Orthopaedics recalls 19,059 of its LCS Complete RPS Knee Systems due to higher revision rates reported in Australia.
- June 2015: DePuy recalls 3,474 Attune Knee Tibial Articulation Surface surgical tools because the surgical instrument could be left in the patient.
- September 2015: DePuy recalls 7,488 Specialist 2 Intramedullary Road tools used in primary and revision knee procedures and tibial resection because they may fracture and leave parts in the patient.
Knee Replacement Lawsuits
Thousands of people have filed failed knee replacement lawsuits against manufacturers of these defective devices. People file knee replacement lawsuits against the implants’ manufacturers for marketing their devices as safe and effective despite knowing that the implant had defects. These defects are typically related to the device’s manufacturing process, design, or marketing.
One of the largest knee replacement lawsuit settlements involved Sulzer Medica, Europe’s largest orthopedics maker. The company agreed to pay $1 billion to settle about 4,000 lawsuits filed by American patients.
Knee Replacement Lawyers
Attorneys with Beasley Allen Law Firm are currently investigating cases involving individuals who have undergone revision surgery because their knee implant loosened or failed prematurely. For a free consultation, contact our leading medical device attorneys.