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Knee replacement is a common preference sensitive quality-of-life procedure that can reduce pain and improve function for people with advanced knee arthritis. While most patients improve, knee replacement surgery has the potential for serious complications. Prosthetic knee infection is an uncommon but serious complication. This study explored the impact of cases of prosthetic knee infection on surgeons’ personal and professional wellbeing. Qualitative telephone interviews were conducted with consultant orthopaedic surgeons who treated patients for prosthetic knee infection in one of six high-volume NHS orthopaedic departments. Data was audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically. Eleven surgeons took part. Analysis identified three overarching themes: (i) At some point infection is inevitable but surgeons still feel accountable; (ii) A profound emotional impact and (iii) Supporting each other. The occurrence of prosthetic joint infection has a significant emotional impact on surgeons who report a collective sense of devastation and personal ownership, even though prosthetic joint infection cannot be fully controlled for. Surgeons stressed the importance of openly discussing the management of prosthetic joint infection with a supportive multidisciplinary team and this has implications for the ways in which orthopaedic surgeons may be best supported to manage this complication. This article also acknowledges that surgeons are not alone in experiencing personal impact when patients have infection.
- Centre for Surgical Research
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