Know how to Recognize Complications

Most people who undergo joint replacement surgery recover without complications. Even so, you and your family should know how to recognize problems if they develop. Here’s a quick guide to the most common complications after knee and hip replacement:


Infection is a risk after any kind of surgery. You should be careful to follow your surgeon’s advice about Preventing infection. If an infection develops in your incision or around your new joint, this is a potentially serious problem that requires medical attention as soon as possible.

Call your surgeon or family doctor if

  • sick man

    you develop a temperature (taken by mouth at least half an hour after eating or drinking) higher than 38 C. (101 F.)
  • you notice any change in the amount, colour or odour of drainage from your incision or a sudden increase in pain around the incision
  • you notice increased pain, swelling or tenderness in the calf or thigh of EITHER leg
  • you notice that EITHER leg appears pale or bluish in colour
  • you notice that EITHER leg feels unusually cool to the touch
  • you suddenly have trouble walking

In some cases, a blood clot can travel from your leg to your lungs, a condition known as  “pulmonary embolism.” While this is a rare event, it’s good to know the signs and to understand that this is a medical emergency.

Blood clots

Your chances of developing a blood clot – which usually occurs in a leg vein – are quite low. But even so, your risk for such a clot is higher than normal for at least two months after knee or hip replacement surgery.

Most people who develop blood clots do so after they return home from the hospital. While the risk is greater in your operated leg, you can also develop a clot in your unoperated leg – especially if you haven’t been physically active for a long time. So it’s important to follow your surgeon’s advice about Preventing blood clots.

Call 911 immediately if

  • you develop sudden chest pain
  • you develop sudden shortness of breath and/or rapid (fast) breathing