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rguribe (@rguribe)

Total knee replacement infection after 9 years.

Joint Replacements | Last Active: Jun 18 4:22pm | Replies (31)

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I had both knees replaced about 10 years ago. I developed an infection In my right knee about 6 years later. I had cellulitis in my chin and the infection traveled to my knee. My doctor told me that sometimes an infection in one place (my chin) will travel to places where there is an artificial part…in this case my right knee. It started hurting about 2 weeks after the cellulitis and my knee was hot, red, and swollen. The first time I went to the ER they gave me pain meds. I followed through by seeing my surgeon several day later. At this point he put me on an antibiotic and was simply watching it. By 2 weeks it was so swollen and painful I could hardly stand it.
I went in to see the doctor and he removed some fluid and sent it for testing. I received a phone call from his office several hours later telling me to go to the hospital and check in, they had a room for me. They said he would be surgically removing the infected tissue, etc. They called it “debride and irrigate” the area. This was surgery #1. I woke up with a “soft immobilizer ” which kept me from bending my knee. I was also on IV antibiotics. I stayed in the hospital several days and the moved to rehab. I was on antibiotics for several months. I recovered and things were fine.
#2 Surgery- About 5 months later I fell in the garage. I whacked my knee, broke 3 ribs, and broke 3 vertebrae above where I had titanium rods in my Lumbar spine. Boy, I was a mess and in terrible pain. Back to the hospital….the fall caused the infection in my knee to kick up again. As my luck would have it I had MRSA. Apparently minute pieces (cells) of the infection can linger on the artificial parts. So all the hardware in my knee was removed. A cement block saturated with antibiotics was placed in that area and once more I was on antibiotics. Before I left the hospital I had a PICC line inserted and for several months I administered the antibiotics through the PICC line. It must have been about 6 months before Infectious Diseases cleared me for surgery #3 to give me new hardware.
At this point I was turned over to a Reconstruction Specialist. He put in my new hardware. And I was still on antibiotics…he said most likely I would need to take them forever. I had another PICC line and more antibiotics again. This time the brace was an immobilizer that went from ankle to the highest possible area of my thigh. My incision was 27 inches! After 3 months I got to remove the brace.
I was doing great except my kneecap seemed to be off center a bit. Within a month or so, my kneecap worked it’s way almost to the side of my leg. So surgery #4 was done to move my kneecap over and “tied” in place. Back to the killer brace. Passed go and the brace came off. It wasn’t long before my kneecap started moving around to the side. So…
You guessed it, Surgery #5! My own tendon was shot. My doctor said it was like elastic that have been stretched too far and lost it’s elasticity. This time I had a bone graft, a new patella, and a new tendon that connected to what was left high in my thigh. I was doing great, getting around fairly well while wear my brace that allowed no bending. I also developed another infection, but it was quickly attacked by more antibiotics.
I know you will find this unbelievable but there was Surgery #6! The bone graft started to separate so he went back in and used larger screws and wrapped wire around it so it wouldn’t separate. I am now about 2 months post surgery from the last surgery. I have to wear the brace for another 3 months-making 6 in total. Two weeks ago I fell but no damage to my knee! My back is a different story.
But after all this covering about 3 years, I can see the light at the end of this tunnel. I am taking Minocycline, maybe forever and another antibiotic for the small infection I had at the end. I have that lovely 27 inch incision scar but it is funny what really matters. I don’t care what my leg looks like. I just want to be able to walk, drive, and enjoy life. I think I am close to doing those things again. Long trip but I am still positive and look forward to living again. Sometimes I cannot believe my own story. What I have discovered it that there are so many nice and caring people out there. Male, female, every age, everyone stops to help me through a door or in and out of a chair, etc. it gives me hope for the world. And I so appreciate my group of family and friends who have done so much to help keep me going. I have been fortunate indeed.

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Replies to "I had both knees replaced about 10 years ago. I developed an infection In my right..."

Hello @boislandgirl, Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. Thank you for sharing your story of staying positive under some really scary and bad circumstances. I had my right knee replaced a year ago in April and I cannot imagine what you have been through. Sharing your experience will be beneficial to many members on Connect.

You mention you have had a lot of support from your family and friends to keep you going. Do you have any tips to share with others who may be struggling with infection and knee replacements?

Your complications sound unbelievable.
First of all my husband was in the hospital for 3 days Sept 26 with pneumonia
He had a knee replacement Oct 27, 2020. First day great going up and down stairs making progress. Day 3 excruciating pain.
Aspiration showed no infection. However his pain was intolerable. Nov 7 went back in with a wash out. Treated as if infected. vancomycin through picc. And Cefepine. Rehab then home. Positive Covid 19. Elevated kidney creatinine level due to too high dosage of vancomycin. Back for another 2 week hosp stay. Blood Clots. Tested neg for Covid 19.
Home now with
6 different medications twice a day
Way behind in PT
Creatinine still elevated
Blood clots. ?
Oxygen. Due to low level. Dips to below 90
Very tired.
No appetite.

This has been a nightmare for a 78 year old man who played 18 holes of golf the day before the first surgery. It’s going to be a long road back to anything resembling normal.