Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®

, Volume 471, Issue 8, pp 2611–2620

Older Age Increases Short-term Surgical Complications After Primary Knee Arthroplasty

  • Molly C. Easterlin
  • Douglas G. Chang
  • Mark Talamini
  • David C. Chang
Clinical Research



Age is a known risk factor for complications after knee arthroplasty; however, age-related risks for a variety of complications of total and partial knee arthroplasties have not been well quantified.


Our study addressed three questions to better understand age-related risk of complications: (1) At what age do different types of complications increase? (2) Is the increase in complications with age resulting from age-related patient comorbidities, sociodemographic characteristics, and surgical conditions? (3) What is the probability of complications at different ages for an average patient?


The American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP) database from 2005 to 2009 was used to analyze complications for 8950 patients. Complications included NSQIP events, and complications described by the 2003 National Institutes of Health (NIH) consensus statement on total knee arthroplasty as well as 30-day mortality, deep vein thrombosis, return to the operating room, extended length of stay, and technical aspects of the surgery itself. Logistic regression analysis was performed.


Mortality was higher for those aged 85 and older. NSQIP complications increased starting at age 70 years and NIH complications at 85 years. Age remained an independent risk factor for multiple complications with controls. The predicted risk for an average patient ranged from 4% (40–64 years old) to 17% (90 years or older) for NSQIP complications and 2.8% to 8.8% for NIH complications.


Age is an important independent predictor of surgical complications after knee arthroplasties. Surgeons can share these quantified age-specific risks with patients to guide management decisions.

Level of Evidence

Level I, prognostic study. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.


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Copyright information

© The Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons® 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Molly C. Easterlin
    • 1
  • Douglas G. Chang
    • 2
  • Mark Talamini
    • 1
  • David C. Chang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryUniversity of California, San DiegoSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryUniversity of California, San DiegoSan DiegoUSA

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