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Medical Malpractice and Knee Replacement Surgery

Knee replacement surgery is among the most common joint replacement procedures. Many older people get knee replacement surgery to address knee pain and joint problems. Even younger people who are physically active may have problems with knee pain after their cartilage, bones, and ligaments cause joint issues. 

Knee implant surgery can provide a welcome relief to people suffering from knee pain and joint arthritis. Even though knee surgery is common, it is not a procedure that comes without risks. Knee implant surgery is serious and invasive and can have complications, in addition to the risks associated with any major surgery. A surgeon can also make mistakes before, during, and after surgery that can cause the patient to suffer unnecessary pain, complications, or even fatal injuries. 

If you had knee surgery and things haven’t been right since there may be a complication of surgery that you didn’t expect. Maybe the doctor didn’t warn you about the actual risks of surgery. There is also the chance that the surgeon made a mistake during surgery that causes pain, discomfort, or other complications. 

If your knee injuries were caused by medical malpractice, you may be able to file a claim against the doctors and hospital to pay for your losses, including medical bills, corrective surgery, and pain and suffering. If you suffered an injury caused by a knee surgeon’s negligence, contact an experienced personal injury and medical malpractice law firm for help. 

Knee Replacement Procedures

A knee replacement is also known as knee arthroplasty. Knee surgery involves replacing parts of the knee joint with artificial parts, usually made of metal or plastic. Patients may require knee replacement when they have knee damage that impairs their ability to walk, climb stairs, or do daily activities. Patients may also require knee surgery because of severe knee pain. 

According to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), there are approximately 790,000 total knee replacements performed every year in the U.S. The numbers are likely to increase as the population gets older. The ACR claims that “total joint replacement is one of the safest and most reliable treatments in any area of medicine.”

Knee replacement surgery was first performed in 1968. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), “Total knee replacements are one of the most successful procedures in all of medicine.”

Patients may be encouraged to try non-surgical knee pain and mobility treatments. This includes treating arthritis with arthritis medications, low-impact exercise modifications, weight loss, nutritional supplements, and joint injections. However, if the non-surgical management is not successful, doctors may recommend surgery for patients with advanced state joint disease or other knee pain complications. 

The most common reasons for patients seeking out a knee replacement are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, previous joint injuries and fractures, joint infections, rare conditions like osteonecrosis, and other inflammatory joint problems. 

Knee replacement surgery is generally done by orthopedic surgeons. Orthopedic surgeons are doctors who specialize in musculoskeletal system care, including conditions of the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and skin. Orthopedic surgeons have specialized training in joint surgery and knee surgery. 

The surgeon will remove the worn-out cartilage from both sides of the joint, resurface the joint with metal and plastic replacement implants, and complete the procedure so the artificial joint acts and functions like a normal knee joint. Depending on the surgery, some or all of the knee tissue may be replaced. Areas of knee replacement include: 

  • The end of the shinbone
  • The end of the thigh bone
  • The back of the kneecap

In a total knee arthroplasty (TKA), all 3 surfaces are replaced to give the patient new and smooth surfaces. 

For some patients, knee replacement surgery is an outpatient procedure, where they can go home the same day as the surgery. Other patients may need a few days in the hospital to recover. Like other surgeries, post-surgical care includes blood thinners, compression socks, and knee coverings. It takes time before the patient can put weight on the knee joint but patients are usually counseled to do exercises and bend the leg regularly. 

Initial walking and mobility can be done with crutches, a knee walker, or a cane. Patients can begin to use their knees as usual after about 3 to 6 weeks. Patients with successful surgery will usually have less knee pain than before surgery. 

What Are the Risks of Knee Implant Surgery? 

Any surgical procedure comes with some level of risk. These risks can be higher for older patients or patients with other medical conditions. As an invasive surgical procedure, some of the risks of knee arthroplasty include: 

  • Infection
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Nerve damage
  • Scarring that limits knee function
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Medication complications
  • Slip and fall
  • Dislocation
  • Foot drop

Causes of Knee Implant Malpractice

There are risks of surgery that may be unavoidable. However, other complications are completely avoidable. These complications may involve human error, or more specifically, doctor error. When an orthopedic surgeon fails to follow the medical standards required of the profession, it can cause injury, harm, and damage to the patient.  

According to an article in the Indian Journal of Orthopaedics, total knee arthroplasty has seen an increase in litigation associated with the procedure. “A survey of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons found that 78% of responding surgeons had been named as a defendant in at least one lawsuit alleging medical malpractice.”

Common claims for knee and hip replacement litigation included: 

  • Foot drop
  • Dislocation
  • Medical complications
  • Limb length discrepancy
  • Nerve injury
  • Pain
  • Periprosthetic fracture
  • Implant loosening
  • Metallosis
  • Neurological deficit
  • Infection
  • In-hospital falls
  • Hypoxic brain injury
  • Vascular injury
  • Instability

What Is Medical Malpractice?

A medical error is not necessarily medical malpractice. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor does something out of the ordinary that causes an injury. Basically, if a doctor does something a reasonable doctor would not have done under the circumstances, it can be malpractice if it harms the patient. 

In a knee replacement medical malpractice claim, the injury victim has to prove the following

  • The orthopedic surgeon owed the patient a duty of care
  • The orthopedic surgeon deviated from medical standards
  • The doctor’s deviation caused the patient’s injuries
  • The patient suffered harm as a result

To show a deviation from medical standards, medical malpractice cases use a medical expert to testify to the jury. The expert is someone with the training, experience, education, and scientific knowledge to know the medical standards of orthopedic surgeons. The expert can testify to tell the jury whether or not the doctor’s actions fell within reasonable medical standards and if they caused the patient’s injuries. 

When an operation goes wrong, the patient can get compensation by filing a medical malpractice claim.

My Doctor Didn’t Warn Me About These Side Effects

Doctors may gloss over many of the risks, complications, and contraindications of knee surgery. This is more common with doctors who focus on knee and hip replacement surgeries, who may perform these procedures on a daily basis. However, it is important for even the most well-regarded surgeons to take the time to explain the procedure to patients, including the risks. 

Many patients are unaware that failure to properly advise patients of the risks and benefits of a procedure may actually be a type of medical malpractice. This is known as informed consent. Informed consent means the patient was informed of, and understands, the risks of a medical procedure before agreeing to treatment. 

Before performing a medical procedure, like knee arthroplasty, a physician must fully inform patients about the benefits of the treatment and the risks involved. A doctor has a duty to discuss:

  • The condition being treated
  • The nature and character of the proposed treatment or surgical procedure
  • The anticipated results from the proposed treatment or surgical procedure
  • The recognized possible alternative forms of treatment
  • The recognized serious possible risks, complications, and anticipated benefits involved in the treatment or surgical procedure, as well as the recognized possible alternative forms of treatment, including non-treatment

Informed consent involves more than handing the patient a piece of paper detailing the risks and asking for a signature. A doctor has a responsibility to make sure the patient understands the information and has an opportunity to ask questions. 

Defective Knee Implant Devices

Even if the doctor does everything as it is supposed to be done, some patients suffer pain and knee damage because of defective medical equipment. Defective knee implants can have faulty designs, use improper materials, or have manufacturing problems that result in an inferior product. Defective knee implant devices can require corrective surgery, cause severe pain, cost patients in expensive medical procedures, and leave the injury victim unable to walk, work, or move about as expected. 

Knee Implant Recalls

There have been hundreds of knee replacement recalls over the years. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), issued a communication of risks involving Exactech joint replacement devices with defective packaging. A number of joint replacement devices manufactured between 2004 and 2021 were recalled because they were packaged in defective packaging bags. 

The implant packaging was missing oxygen barrier layers that protected the devices from oxidation. Oxidation could degrade the plastic material over time, leading to accelerated wear and tear, cracking, fracturing, and device failure. These issues could require corrective revision surgery to address the damage and bone loss. 

Patients who received Eactech joint replacement devices and experienced worsening pain, swelling, inability to bear weight, grinding, or weakness around the implanted devices are urged to contact their health providers. Medical professionals should discuss revision surgery with these patients, including the benefits and risks of all treatment options. 

What Kind of Compensation Can I Get After a Knee Implant Injury?

When a knee implant mistake causes medical complications, the injury victim can get financial compensation from the doctors, hospitals, or device manufacturers. Damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit can include economic and non-economic damages. 

Economic damages include financial costs and losses, like medical bills, lost wages, and any expenses for mobility devices. Economic damages can also include future costs. For example, if your injuries will require corrective surgery or long-term care, the damages should include future medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, and costs for future care. 

Non-economic damages can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment in life, and loss of consortium. If you want to know how much you might be able to get in compensation for a knee surgery error, talk to your medical malpractice attorney for information about your case.

How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help?

If you are still suffering knee pain after replacement surgery, you may think that is just a side effect of surgery. However, some knee injuries are the result of medical errors. There could be left-behind surgical materials in the knee area. Improper surgical techniques could have resulted in an infection in the knee tissue. The doctor may have negligently caused nerve damage, worsening the knee pain. 

There may be no way to know if your injuries were the result of medical negligence without getting a professional review. The knee surgeon will not likely admit to making a mistake, even if they were aware they caused the injury. However, you can still talk to a medical malpractice attorney for a review of your case to see whether you might have a claim. 

Medical malpractice law firms use medical experts who can review your medical records and identify anything that might indicate a medical mistake. This could include failure to document certain safety procedures, using the wrong medications, failing to follow surgical time-out procedures, or failure to monitor the patient after surgery. 

You only have a limited amount of time to file a medical malpractice claim. The statute of limitations in your state limits the amount of time you have to file a civil lawsuit. The statute of limitations laws are very strict. Filing your case even one day too late may mean you will get nothing for your losses. 

For legal advice about your knee injury malpractice case, talk to experienced trial attorneys who have successfully represented knee implant surgery victims. Contact a malpractice lawyer to find out more about your case and what kind of damages you can recover. For a free consultation, contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162.

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