Failed knee replacement

A knee replacement should last for 15 to 20 years or more. But sometimes a knee replacement can fail after years of wear and tear on the replacement parts.


When a knee replacement fails, the knee may become painful, swollen, and unstable.

Causes and risk factors

A failed knee replacement can be caused by:

  • Loosening of the replacement parts due to wear and tear
  • Worn-out bearings of the replacement parts due to time or an overly active lifestyle
  • Infection in the joint
  • Injury with a fracture or a rupture of the tendons that straighten the knee

Treatment options

A failed knee replacement may require surgery. The type of surgery depends on what caused the knee replacement to fail. The surgery may be necessary to repair tissue or to remove an infection. Or you may have surgery to replace the original replacement parts.

Last reviewed: 
July 2018

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