When drugs and physical therapy fail to relieve the pain associated with damaged knee joints, many sufferers opt for knee arthroplasty, or knee replacement surgery, which today is the most common replacement surgery being performed in the United States, with more than 580,000 being performed annually. Some of the conditions that cause people to choose knee replacement surgery are osteoarthritis, meniscus or ligament tears, and defects in the cartilage.
For many, knee replacement restores mobility and ends pain, but sometimes things go wrong. Occasionally, the surgery is not successful because of negligence, either on the part of the surgeon or the manufacturer of the device.
Proper Alignment is Critical
To function properly, the knee prosthesis must be properly aligned. Misalignment of the joint can cause limited range of motion if there is reduced flexion and/or extension of the leg, causing pain, difficulty in performing daily activities, and excessive wear and tear, which can cause the prosthesis to loosen.
Walking requires around 70 degrees flexion and close to full extension of the knee, while sitting and standing up from a sitting position require 90 degrees and going down stairs needs 105-110 degrees. Loss of flexion beyond these measurements means impairment in normal daily activities. A loss of extension, also called extension contractature, causes an abnormal gait and requires the expenditure of additional energy in getting around. The post-operative range-of-motion measurements are compared to preoperative range of motion and the range of motion in the opposite knee to determine if there has been a loss resulting from the surgery.
It is essential that the surgeon x-ray the joint during surgery to make certain that it has been aligned correctly, and new computer-aided techniques are now available in some hospitals to assist surgeons in precisely aligning the replacement joint.
Knee replacement surgery relies on a surgeon’s precision and skill to produce the best possible outcome. When a surgeon fails to use available surgical techniques and technologies and the result is poor, causing undue pain and suffering and necessitating additional surgery, the patient may have a claim to recover damages for medical malpractice.
Defective Prostheses May Loosen Prematurely
Additionally, some knee prostheses have been manufactured with serious defects. One product, the Zimmer NexGen CR Flex has frequently loosened within a short period, sometimes as little as two years. This can cause pain, infection, bone deterioration and reabsorption, and necessitates a second surgery. Unfortunately, revision surgeries are more difficult and often unsuccessful because of the damage done to the bone. The tibia or femur may no longer be strong enough to hold the replacement joint in place. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a recall of the Zimmer knee in September 2010. Patients experiencing any problems resulting from loosening knee prostheses may be able to recover damages from the manufacturer.
Anyone who has experienced a poor outcome from knee replacement surgery should contact a personal injury attorney with experience in medical malpractice cases to evaluate the situation and determine if there is a cause of action. There are time limits on filing cases of this type, so it is important to consult with a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as problems arise.
Due to the nature of our small practice, we are unable to take every case, but we will help you find the right attorney for your case. We are happy to set up referrals to other attorneys who may be better suited to assist you.