Complications After Knee Replacement: Medical Malpractice?

Knee surgery carries with it numerous risks and potential for long-term complications. In some cases - where problems should have been prevented - the patient may have a valid malpractice claim.

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

If you've had knee replacement surgery and are now experiencing complications, you may have a medical malpractice claim against your surgeon or other health care provider. Here are some of the common risks associated with knee replacement surgery, tips on identifying and bringing a medical malpractice claim, and a real-world example of a verdict in a knee-replacement malpractice case.

Common Risks and Side-Effects Associated with Knee Replacement Surgery

Knee replacement surgery (also known as "arthroplasty") is one of the most common bone surgeries in the United States according to WebMD. During knee replacement surgery, an orthopedic surgeon removes the damaged part of the knee and replaces it with an artificial joint.

The risks and side effects of knee replacement surgery include:

  • infections
  • nerve damage
  • chronic stiffness
  • pain in the knee
  • pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in the legs that lodge in the lungs)
  • bleeding in the knee joint
  • urinary tract infections
  • blood vessel injuries, and
  • general loss of range of motion and impeded movement.

How Do I Know If I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?

Just because you experience a side-effect associated with knee replacement surgery doesn't mean you have a viable medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice happens when a medical professional provides care that falls short of what's expected (called the "standard of care").

Some medical malpractice cases are clear-cut. For example, if a surgeon operated on the wrong knee or left a surgical sponge in your body, you'd clearly have a strong medical malpractice claim. But most cases are more complicated. A jury ultimately has to decide whether the health care provider delivered sub-standard care that harmed you. In most cases, the person suing (the "plaintiff") hires an expert witness to say that the health care provider fell short of the standard of care and the health care provider hires an expert to say the opposite.

If you have any of the common symptoms and side effects associated with knee replacement surgery, chances are your surgeon or some other medical professional warned you of those risks before the surgery. A signed consent form typically bars a malpractice claim based on lack of "informed consent," but it can't stop a patient from bringing a legal claim if negligent treatment caused harm.

On the other hand, if you're sure you were never warned about the complication that you're now experiencing, and you wouldn't have agreed to the surgery if you had known of the risk, then you might be able to sue for lack of informed consent.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim

Special rules apply in medical malpractice cases to make suing a surgeon or other health care provider more difficult than suing an ordinary person, like another driver after a car accident or a store owner after a slip and fall.

Medical malpractice rules and procedures vary from state to state, but may include:

How Much Is My Knee Replacement Malpractice Case Worth?

If you win your case, how much you recover will depend on your medical expenses, lost income, and other out-of-pocket losses as well as the dollar value the jury assigns to your pain and suffering. Keep in mind, however, that some states put limits on how much a medical malpractice plaintiff can recover, regardless of what the jury awards.

Learn more about types of damages in medical malpractice cases.

When to See a Lawyer

As you've probably gathered by now, medical malpractice is a complicated legal field with a lot of hurdles and uncertainties. If you think you're experiencing complications from your knee replacement surgery that are the result of sub-standard medical care, talk to a medical malpractice attorney. An attorney can answer your questions, explain your legal options, and advocate for you. You can connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free when you're ready.

Real-World Example Verdict

In 2023, a Connecticut jury awarded $8.5 million to the wife and estate of Peter Sobin, an architect who died shortly after what should've been a routine knee-replacement surgery. The surgery was performed in August 2015. In the two weeks that followed, Sobin complained to staff at the Orthopaedic Sports Specialists about increasing pain and swelling in his calf. His health care providers ignored his concerns. He developed a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) and died when the clot in his leg traveled to his lung. The jury found that Sobin's providers failed to order an ultrasound, which would have detected the clot and saved his life.

Make the Most of Your Claim
Get the compensation you deserve.
We've helped 175 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you