All you need to know about knee replacement infection

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After a knee replacement surgery is conducted, there is always a possibility of infection occurring around the wound. According to Dr Ashwani Maichand, a Delhi-based orthopaedist, the infection normally occurs around the artificial implant that is used to replace the knee joint. It can occur during the hospital stay or when a person is under rehabilitation, after the surgery.

Symptoms of knee replacement infection

  • If a patient experiences a minor swelling or redness around the incision, it could be normal as well as dangerous. There is a possibility of post-surgery infection only if the problem keeps increasing with time.
  • Warmth around the knee or incision normally doesn’t indicate infection. But, if the redness and tenderness around the knee doesn’t go away, then it may be a sign of infection.
  • Apart from this, if a person is not able to walk without pain for a long time, it may also lead to infection.
  • If a grey liquid keeps coming out from the incision with a bad smell, the chances of infection are high.
  • Fever, night sweat and fatigue may also be the symptoms of knee replacement infection.

Cause of post-surgery infection

There is a possibility that the bacteria may enter a person’s body after the surgery, through the wound made by incision. If it reaches to the artificial joint, it can cause infection by multiplying within the wound. Also, if a person doesn’t have a strong immune system, these bacteria can get into the bloodstream.

Dr Maichand states that it is usually difficult for the body to kill the bacteria on the artificial joints made of metal and plastic, as these are not organic in nature.


A visual examination can prove to be helpful in the diagnosis of knee replacement. In order to investigate the type of bacteria causing the infection, a doctor may need to use the following tests:

Blood Test: It can help in measuring the inflammation in the body, which indicates the infection.

Imaging test: Tests such as X-Rays, CT scans and MRI can help in determining the infection in the artificial joint.

Joint aspiration: In order to look for bacteria and white blood cells, a fluid can be drawn from the knee. Presence of white blood cells usually indicates an infection.


The treatment includes both surgical and non-surgical methods. Dr Ashwani Maichand reckons that in some cases, only skin and tissues are involved and the artificial joint is not affected, which can be treated with oral or intravenous antibiotics. On the other hand, a deeper knee replacement infection may require surgical treatment including debridement, staged surgery, removal of artificial joint, joint washout, new knee replacement surgery, etc.


Last modified: June 11, 2018

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