Two-stage exchange arthroplasty remains the gold standard for treatment of PJI with reported success rates of 85–90%. Complications that occur during treatment are often not reported or considered in the success rate. The purpose of this study was to analyze complications in patients undergoing two-stage exchange and determine when they occur.
We analyzed all patients that underwent two-stage exchange arthroplasty for treatment of chronic PJI of the knee from 2010 to 2018. We categorized complications as medical vs. surgical. The intervals for complications were divided into: interstage, early post re-implant (3 months) and late post re-implant (3 months to minimum 1 year). Minimum follow-up to evaluate complications was one year.
Overall, 132 patients underwent a first stage of a two-stage exchange. There were 63 males and 59 females with an average age at first stage surgery of 66.6 years (SD: 8.9). Ten patients (7.6%) did not undergo re-implantation following resection arthroplasty (8 retained spacers and 2 deaths). 122 patients underwent the planned second stage of a two-stage exchange arthroplasty of the knee. The overall success rate (re-implant without recurrence of infection) was 78%. Overall mortality was 1.6% at one year and 9% at 5 years after treatment.
Fifty-six patients (46%) experienced at least one complication. 43 patients had an orthopaedic related complication that required additional surgery and 13 patients had a medical complication. 33% of the total complications occurred during the interstage period, 18% within 90 days of reimplant, and 37% greater than three months from reimplant (p=0.0287).
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 and the need for in-depth patient counseling, careful surgical technique, and close follow up.
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