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Emergency causes of knee pain

Complications of an artificial knee joint

If you have had knee replacement surgery and are beginning to have pain, let your orthopedic surgeon know about it.

Knee joint infection

If you had a fever about when your knee pain began, you may have an infection in your knee joint. Call your surgeon or your primary care provider right away.

Other symptoms you may have include:

  • Not feeling well
  • Swelling, redness, or warmth near the knee
  • Chills or sweating
  • Swelling in your leg

Risk factors for infection are:

  • Recent illness with pneumonia or urinary track infection
  • Recent trauma
  • Diabetes
  • Being on dialysis
  • Poor blood supply to the legs
  • IV (intravenous) drug abuse

People who have had their spleen removed are also at higher risk for bone infections.


Cancers can spread to your bones and cause pain. If you have a history of cancer, call your cancer doctor, orthopedic surgeon, or your primary care provider to discuss your knee pain.

Common cancers that may start in another part of the body and spread to the bones include breast, kidney, lung, prostate, and thyroid.

For some bone cancers, you may also feel a mass or swelling on the bone or the area next to the bone.

Knee fracture

If your knee pain began after a recent injury, fall, or accident, and you have trouble putting weight on your knee, you may have a knee fracture. Call your orthopedic surgeon or your primary care provider.

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Review Date: 8/9/2018

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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