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Can Joint Replacement Surgery Lead to Heart Attacks?

Hip and knee replacement surgeries are becoming increasingly common. About 1.8 million of these procedures are done worldwide each year. As the population ages, that number will likely rise.

Arthroplasty is not just for senior citizens. Younger baby boomers who suffered an injury in their youth that has increasingly bothered them as they age are having joints replaced. You may remember that newsman Brian Williams underwent knee replacement surgery two years ago to fix a problem "35 years in the making" that was caused by a high school football injury.

Many people take advantage of the advancements in joint replacement technology to have knee or hip joints replaced because they suffer from osteoarthritis. That often-painful condition can significantly compromise a person's mobility and quality of life.

Of course, there are risks involved with any surgical procedure. However, one study found a possible link between total hip or knee replacement surgery and heart attacks.

Researchers followed over 27,000 50-year-olds with osteoarthritis involving the hip or knee from 2000 through 2012. Half had total joint replacement surgery, while the other half didn't. Almost 600 participants in the study suffered a heart attack. Slightly more (20 people) of those had undergone the surgery. Those surgical patients who suffered a heart attack were most likely to have it in the month following their surgery.

The difference in the rate of heart attacks between the two groups was relatively insignificant. However, those who had the surgery ran a higher risk of developing another potentially-fatal condition -- a blood clot in the lung.

Any good doctor will evaluate the overall health of a patient to determine whether he or she is at any heightened risk if surgery is performed and advise a patient of the potential risks versus rewards of surgery. It's also necessary to monitor a patient's health after surgery, particularly for conditions that may develop as a result of the procedure. Some medical issues, such as a heart attack months after surgery, may seem unrelated to the procedure.

However, if you believe your injury or illness, or that of a loved one, may have been related to a surgical procedure, it may be wise to seek legal guidance. An experienced Miami medical malpractice attorney can work to determine whether physicians exercised proper caution in evaluating a patient's fitness for surgery and engaged in proper follow-up care.

Source: Becker's Orthopedic Review, "Knee or hip replacement surgery may increase risk for heart attack — 5 takeaways," Mary Rechtoris, accessed Sep. 28, 2015

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