Revision Joint Replacement

Performing a Replacement of a Joint Replacement

revision joint replacement
A revision joint replacement is performed to replace an existing joint replacement. BSIP/UIG / Getty Images

Definition: A revision joint replacement means that surgery must be done to replace a worn out joint replacement. Also called revision arthroplasty, revision joint replacement is often more complicated with less predictable results.  People may refer to a revision joint replacement as a repeat joint replacement, or a replacement of a joint replacement.  There is no limit to the number of revision replacements that can be performed, although they generally become more difficult each time.

Reasons a revision joint replacement may need to be performed include:

  • Worn-out implants: Over time joint replacement implants will eventually wear out.  While developments in joint replacement materials are intended to make these implants last longer, they will eventually wear out.  Most surgeons recommend patients avoid certain impact sports after joint replacement in an effort to ensure the implants last as long as possible.
  • Infection of a replaced joint: Infection is a serious complication of joint replacement surgery and often requires additional surgery for treatment of the infection.  When the infection is found soon after the initial surgery (within weeks or months of the initial joint replacement) sometimes a revision replacement can be avoided.  However, if the infection occurs more than 6 weeks after surgery, it typically requires a revision joint replacement, sometimes multiple operations, to cure the infection.
  • Instability of implants:  All types of joint replacements are susceptible to instability--the implants not holding in proper position, or dislocating completely from their normal position.  In the case of hip replacement surgery, a hip dislocation is a possible complication.  Revision joint replacement can used specialized implants to help improve the stability of the joint.
  • Malpositioning of an implanted joint: Poorly positioned implants can cause a number of problems including accelerated wearing out of the implants, limited mobility of the joint, or instability of the joint.  If the implants are not well positioned, a revision joint replacement can be performed to try to improve the function of the joint.

Because of the many different reasons a revision joint replacement may need to be done, every aspect of the surgery must be treated on an individual basis. Therefore, you must discuss these procedures at length with your surgeon. Not all revision joint replacements require the replacement of all parts of the implanted joint. In some cases, parts of the original implant may still be in perfect condition while others may need to be replaced.

Revision joint replacements are often a more complicated surgery because of scar tissue formation, loss of normal bone, and difficulty removing implants that are not loose.  While the general risks of revision joint replacement are similar to a standard joint replacement, you should certainly discuss with your doctor specific concerns with your surgery.

  Furthermore, it is important to discuss the expected outcome of surgery, as most often the expected results of revision joint replacement are not as optimistic as with a standard joint replacement.

While everyone wants to know how long a hip replacement will last or how long their knee replacement will last, it is important to remember that while there are averages, there are often very significant differences among individuals.  Even though an average implant may last 15 or 20 years, some implants may last 30, while other may need revision surgery within a few years. 

Also Known As: Revision Arthroplasty, Repeat Joint Replacement

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