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Complications in the treatment of prosthetic joint infection

when do they occur?

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Two-stage exchange arthroplasty is the most common definitive treatment for prosthetic joint infection (PJI) in the USA. Complications that occur during treatment are often not considered. The purpose of this study was to analyze complications in patients undergoing two-stage exchange for infected total knee arthroplasty (TKA) and determine when they occur.


We analyzed all patients that underwent two-stage exchange arthroplasty for treatment of PJI of the knee from January 2010 to December 2018 at a single institution. We categorized complications as medical versus surgical. The intervals for complications were divided into: interstage; early post-reimplantation (three months); and late post-reimplantation (three months to minimum one year). Minimum follow-up was one year. In total, 134 patients underwent a first stage of a two-stage exchange. There were 69 males and 65 females with an mean age at first stage surgery of 67 years (37 to 89). Success was based on the new Musculoskeletal Infection Society (MSIS) definition of success reporting.


Overall, 70 (52%) patients experienced a complication during the planned two-stage treatment, 36 patients (27%) experienced a medical complication and 47 (41%) patients experienced a surgical complication. There was an 18% mortality rate (24/134) at a mean of 3.7 years (0.09 to 8.3). During the inter-stage period, 28% (37/134) of patients experienced a total of 50 complications at a median of 47 days (interquartile range (IQR) 18 to 139). Of these 50 complications, 22 were medical and 28 required surgery. During this inter-stage period, four patients died (3%) and an additional five patients (4%) failed to progress to the second stage. While 93% of patients (125/134) were reimplanted, only 56% (77/134) of the patients were successfully treated without antibiotic suppression (36%, 28/77) or with antibiotic suppression (19%, 15/77) at one year.


Reported rates of success of two stage exchanges for PJI have not traditionally considered complications in the definition of success. In our series, significant numbers of patients experienced complications, more often after reimplantation, highlighting the morbidity of this method of treatment.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(6 Supple A):145–150.

Correspondence should be sent to Bryan D. Springer. E-mail:

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