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Risks & Complications

Risks & Complications of Total Hip Replacement

What are the risks and complications?
What about infection and how do I prevent it? 
What causes a blood clot and how can I prevent it?
What is a pulmonary embolism and what are the signs?

Risks and Complications

Watch our recorded seminar on the risks and complications of hip replacement surgery.All surgeries have certain complications associated with them.   We will discuss with you prior to surgery some of the more common complications such as infection, blood clots, post op stiffness, and persistent pain.  Nerve damage, fracture of the bone, loosening of the prosthesis and dislocation are much more rare complications that may happen.   It is important to understand that there is always the remote risk of stroke, pneumonia, heart attack, or even death involved with any major surgery requiring a general anesthesia.  Click on the photo in this section to watch our recorded seminar covering Hip Replacement Surgery Risks and Complications (6:40 minutes). --back to top--


There is a risk of infection with any surgery. Sometimes these infections are superficial and respond to antibiotics.  Occasionally, the prosthesis must be removed and reinserted during a later surgery if the infection is severe enough. To prevent this from happening, we use special equipment and antibiotics for several days surrounding the surgery. 

If you experience any of these symptoms after discharge, notify your surgeon as soon as possible.

  • Increased swelling and redness at the incision site.
  • Change in color, amount, odor of drainage.
  • Fever greater than 101.0 degrees F

Prevention of infection:

  • Take proper care of your incision as instructed at discharge.
  • Notify your physician and dentist that you have a total joint replacement.
  • Take prophylactic (preventative) antibiotics when having dental work or other potentially contaminating procedures. This needs go be done for at least two years after your surgery.   --back to top--


Surgery and immobility can cause blood to slow and pool in the legs, creating a blood clot. This is why you take blood thinners after surgery, wear compression stockings, use compression devices and move about out of bed as much as possible after surgery to try prevent this complication. Sometimes these clots are superficial and only require heat and time to resolve. Deep clots are more worrisome and may go to the lungs, so they must be treated with hospitalization and blood thinners. Blood clots can form in your non-surgical leg as well as the leg on which you had the operation.  If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, notify your surgeon as soon as possible.

Signs of blood clots in the legs include:

  • Swelling in thigh, calf, or ankle that does not go down with elevation, ice or rest.
  • Pain, heat, and tenderness in the calf, back of hip, or groin area.

Prevention of blood clots include:

  • Foot and ankle pump exercises
  • Walking
  • Compression stockings
  • Taking blood thinners such as Lovenox and Aspirin

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A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot breaks away from the vein and travels to the lungs. This is an emergency and you should call 911 immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms: 

  • Sudden chest pain
  • Difficult and/or rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Confusion

Pulmonary embolisms are rare, but very dangerous and can potentially cause death.  Please take any signs or symptoms seriously.

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