Nonsurgical Treatment for Total Joint Implant Complications

If a complication of joint replacement surgery does not affect the function of the prosthetic joint, medication may be all that’s needed to relieve symptoms. Orthopedic surgeons at NYU Langone prescribe medication if the risk of additional complications is low.

Medication for Blood Clots

Medical treatment for blood clots that form in the leg, called deep vein thrombosis, is the same as treatment for blood clots in the lungs, called pulmonary embolism. Many of these clots dissolve on their own with the help of blood-thinning medications, also known as anticoagulants. If medications don’t dissolve a blood clot, surgery may be required.

Anticoagulants

If you have a blood clot, your doctor may prescribe an anticoagulant to thin the blood and prevent the clot from enlarging. Your doctor determines the right dose and type of medication based the size and location of the blood clot and your health.

Thrombolytics

Thrombolytics are potent anticoagulant medications used to dissolve blood clots quickly. They may have serious side effects, including bleeding, and are used only if a blood clot is very large and causing severe illness that poses an emergency.

Antibiotics for Surgical Site Infection

If an infection occurs in the soft tissues surrounding the surgical incision and does not travel to the joint implant, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. This medication can be taken by mouth or, if an infection is more severe, administered through a vein with intravenous (IV) infusion. In this procedure, antibiotics are injected into a thin, flexible tube inserted into a vein.

In addition to antibiotics, your doctor cleans the site and applies new bandages. He or she can explain how to keep it clean while you’re at home and prevent an infection from recurring.

Closed Reduction for Hip Dislocation

If the implanted hip joint components separate, called dislocation, doctors may be able to reposition them without surgery. This procedure is called closed reduction. Usually, it takes place in the operating room, and doctors use sedation or regional anesthesia to reduce discomfort.

To put the dislocated hip back into place, doctors manually maneuver the joint so the ball-shaped femoral implant fits snugly into the hip socket. Our experts use X-ray guidance to visualize the joint.

After your doctor restores the joint, he or she may recommend physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in the leg and thigh to support the joint implant and prevent dislocation from recurring.

To minimize the risk of dislocation, your doctor recommends avoiding certain positions after the joint has been put back into place. These include crossing your legs, especially while sitting; squatting; sitting on seats low to the ground; and bending the leg at the hip more than 90 degrees.

Lifestyle Changes for Neurovascular Injury

Most neurovascular injuries that occur during joint implant surgery resolve on their own within weeks or months. You may find that integrative therapies, such as acupuncture or acupressure—which involve the use of very thin needles or massage to stimulate specific points on the body—relieve discomfort by releasing endorphins. These therapies may also speed healing by increasing blood flow.

If nerve damage affects your ability to stand, walk, or use your arms, doctors may recommend three months of physical therapy to build muscle strength and restore mobility. At NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation, physiatrists, doctors who specialize in rehabilitation medicine, can create an exercise routine tailored to your symptoms and lifestyle goals. They include simple stretches and exercises you can do at home.

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