Doctors perform more than 600,000 knee replacement operations a year, making it one of the most common bone surgeries in the United States.
While it is major surgery and involves a lengthy rehabilitation process, patients who receive a new knee generally see significant improvement in their quality of life.
The average lifespan of an artificial knee is around 20 years. However, recently many are failing in as little as two years.
A major issue is the adhesive, called bone cement, used to bond the artificial device to existing bone. Bone cement is created by medical professionals by mixing liquid and powdery substances into an adhesive that is applied wet and gradually hardens.
Although rare, failure of the adhesive can cause a serious condition known as Bone Cement Implantation Syndrome, or BCIS, that can lead to obstructed blood vessels, stroke or heart attack.
This condition is also seen in surgeries that attach artificial joints to the shoulder, elbow, and hip. The reaction is known to occur during or shortly after the operation, oftentimes while the patient is still on the operating table. Serious symptoms are:
- Cardiac arrest and/or arrhythmias
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Hypoxia (low oxygen levels in the bloodstream)
- Loss of consciousness
- Pulmonary embolism
Scientists aren’t clear on what causes BCIS, but the most popular theory has to do with an embolus – an object that’s carried into the bloodstream during surgery. The embolus can be fat, marrow, cement, air, bone, or platelets. When the bone cement is applied between the artificial joint and the existing bone, it expands and can put increased pressure on the bone, sometimes causing blood vessels to pop. These popped blood vessels are believed to be the cause of foreign objects leaking into the bloodstream.
A British study published in 1999 shows that there were 23 deaths attributed to BCIS in 23,077 joint-replacement surgeries. Among 15,411 procedures that did not use bone cement, there were zero reported deaths.
Some patients are known to be at higher risk than others and can be candidates for uncemented surgeries. If bone cement is used, doctors and staff will more closely monitor the patients during and after surgery.
Possible risk factors include:
- Old age
- Impaired heart and lung function
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Bone cancer
Multiple fractures needing repair
If you or a loved one have had to deal with the effects of BCIS after a joint-replacement operation, you have options. The attorneys at Stewart & Stewart are some of the most experienced in the state of Indiana at handling medical malpractice cases. You may be entitled compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and wrongful death. We would be honored to help you get what you deserve for having to suffer the effects of a surgery gone wrong. Please call us at 1-800-33-33-LAW or visit our website today for a no-risk consultation.