A Hip or Knee Replacement is Not for Everyone

In England and Wales there are approximately 160,000 total hip and knee replacement procedures performed each year. This extraordinary number is partly down to our aging population; most hip replacement surgery is performed on people aged between 60-80 years old.

A majority of hip replacements are sought because the patient suffers from osteoarthritis, which can cause joint pain and stiffness.

Other conditions that can cause hip joint damage include:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • a hip fracture
  • septic arthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • disorders that cause unusual bone growth (bone dysplasias)

Knee replacement surgery (arthroplasty) is a routine operation that involves replacing a damaged, worn or diseased knee with an artificial joint. A new knee can last for up to 20 years if cared for properly.

Many of the conditions which necessitate hip joints replacement can also trigger the need for knee replacement. In addition, it is well established that other factors can lead to knee surgery being required, including:

  • gout
  • injury
  • blood supply problems causing the bone in the knee joint to die (avascular necrosis)

Since the 1960s, those suffering from pain and reduced mobility have received a new lease of life after having their hips or knees replaced. But as with all operations, there are risks involved.

Types of surgery

There are two types of knee replacement surgery. The first involves both sides of your knee being replaced (total knee replacement), the second is where only half of the knee is replaced (this is a less intrusive operation which allows for a faster recovery time).

Hip replacement surgery can involve the removal of the damaged hip joint and replacing it with an artificial joint made of a metal or ceramic alloy.

An alternative to hip replacement is hip resurfacing, which involves removing the damaged surfaces of the bones inside the hip joint and replacing them with a metal surface. However, this type of surgery is rarely performed nowadays as it is not suitable for post-menopausal women or those over 65 years. There have also been concerns about the metal surface damaging the tissue around the hip joint.


Given the invasive nature of the surgery, recovery from hip replacement surgery requires extensive physiotherapy and the use of crutches for at least two to three months. Many patients can take up to a year to receive the full benefit of their new hip.

Full recovery from knee replacement surgery can take up to two years.

The risks of hip or knee replacement surgery

Hip replacement risks

Knee replacement surgery and hip replacements usually go smoothly. However, risks to the patient include:

  • blood clots
  • infection
  • loosening or dislocation of the implant and a slight difference in leg length
  • an allergic reaction to the metal
  • components of the implant loosening or moving in the event of a fall or accident occurring in the future

Knee surgery risks

Likewise, most knee replacement surgery is successful, with 9 out of 10 patients going on to enjoy a better quality of life. Complications, if they do occur, are usually in the form of:

  • blood clots
  • infection
  • osteolysis – this is the bone next to the knee breaking down
  • Implant fractures – more common in overweight or physically active patients

Complications caused by negligence

One of the biggest causes of complications with hip and knee replacement surgery is where the patient was unsuitable for the procedure but this fact was either missed by the surgeon during pre-operative consultations or the surgeon performed the surgery without taking the risks into account.

Hip and knee replacement should not be performed on people who have:

  • an infection or a history of infection
  • do not have enough bone or the bone is not strong enough to support a new knee
  • injured nerves in your knee or hip area
  • injured or non-functional knee or hip muscles
  • a seriously unstable knee or hip
  • undeveloped bones or whose bones are still growing
  • osteoporosis
  • a knee or hip joint has been previously fused and is stable, functional, and painless
  • rheumatoid arthritis and an active/history of skin lesions (because of increased risk of infection)

Negligence can also occur if your medical team do not explain the recovery process, to ensure you have a clear understanding of how long and how much personal commitment that rehabilitation requires following a hip or knee replacement.

In summary

Although hip or knee replacement surgery can transform a person’s life, especially if they have spent many years living with chronic pain, the procedure is not suitable for everyone due to the risks and long recovery period. Prior to having surgery, your doctor should explain the risks and post-operative care procedure fully and make a careful assessment of whether surgery is appropriate.

Failure to take these steps could result in injury, pain or psychological wounds that could take years to heal. If this has happened to you and you believe your surgeon was negligent, you may be entitled to a claim for compensation, which if successful, could assist you in rebuilding your life.

At Glynns Solicitors we have the expertise required to successfully act for patients who have suffered harm or loss due to botched cosmetic procedures. Please call free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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