Knee infection: what happens when a knee becomes infected?

Josephine

NURSE DIRECTOR EMERITUS
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Infection following knee surgery is a worry for people, but in reality it doesn't happen very often. However in those rare cases where an infection is found, the diagnosis can be very scary to hear. It is important to discuss the entire process of dealing with it with your surgeon. But here is some information that will help you understand what may occur.


In some cases, your surgeon may decide to wash out the existing joint and give you a course or more of strong antibiotics. This can sometimes do the trick and no further surgery or replacement of the joint is required.


Or....the surgeon may opt to remove the infected joint completely and replace it with all new components. This process takes place in stages over several weeks or months.

During the initial surgery, the old implant is removed completely. They will cleanse the whole wound and joint with sterile fluids and get out all the crud that builds up in these situations.

Then they put in preformed temporary implants made out of bone cement impregnated with antibiotics. They look very like the original implants and you will be able to walk on them reasonably well.

aflagsforworship.co.uk_jo_pic_images_preformedi.jpg


In the weeks following, you will be treated with IV antibiotics, probably via a PICC line which is a cannula in the crook of your elbow like so (the yellow tubing)

aflagsforworship.co.uk_jo_pic_images_piccline.jpg



They will do frequent blood tests and when those high numbers are down to normal, then they will remove the temporary implants and put in a complete new knee. Depending upon the circumstances, they might keep you on antibiotics for a while after that. You should also have regular reviews with the surgeon for some months after that, with blood tests, to make sure everything is okay.

This treatment is well rehearsed and pretty routine nowadays. People with infected knees tend to gravitate towards surgeons who specialise in it so they really know what they are doing. Of the several BoneSmart members who have had this done over the last few years, I cannot think of one that hasn't ultimately been successful.
 

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