Infection after knee replacement: a qualitative study of impact of periprosthetic knee infection

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Background: Approximately 340,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the USA and UK. Around 1% of patients who have had knee replacement develop deep infection around the prosthesis: periprosthetic knee infection. Treatment often requires a combination of one or more major operations and antibiotic therapy. This study aimed to understand and characterise patients’ experiences of periprosthetic knee infection.

Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 patients (9 men, 7 women; 59-80 years, mean age 72) who experienced periprosthetic knee infection and subsequent revision treatment in six National Health Service orthopaedic departments. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, anonymised and analysed thematically. The concept of biographical disruption was used to frame our analysis, and four transcripts double-coded for rigour. Patients were interviewed between two and 10 months after surgical revision.

Results: Participants’ experiences are characterised according to three time windows in their journey through infection: routes to diagnosis; experience of treatment; and post-surgical care and support. Participants’ experiences of infection and treatment varied, but everyone who took part reported that infection and revision treatment had devastating effects on them. Participants described use of social and healthcare support and a need for more support. Some participants thought that the symptoms that they had first presented with had not been taken seriously enough.

Conclusions: Periprosthetic knee infection and its treatment can be life-changing for patients, and there is a need for greater support throughout treatment and lengthy recovery. Future work could look at preparedness for adverse outcomes, help-seeking in impactful situations, and information for healthcare professionals about early signs and care for periprosthetic infection.
Original languageEnglish
Article number352
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2018


  • periprosthetic joint infection
  • revision arthroplasty
  • surgical treatment
  • impact
  • qualitative
  • biographical disruption


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