A total knee replacement corrects damage to all three compartments in the knee joint by resurfacing bone and cartilage with metal and plastic components. A partial knee replacement, on the other hand, is a surgical procedure that focuses on one of the three compartments: the medial, lateral, or patellofemoral area.
During the procedure, a partial knee replacement surgeon will preserve healthy cartilage, bone, and ligaments by only replacing the damaged compartment. They remove injured tissue and bone within the knee joint and replace it with artificial components called prosthetic implants, which are made of medical grade plastic and metal. Artificial joints are specially designed to replace part of the total knee joint.
If you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, and more conservative treatments such as NSAIDs, corticosteroid injections into the knee joint, and/or physical therapy have failed to relieve your pain, you may be a candidate for partial knee replacement. Your surgeon will determine if your osteoarthritis is contained in a single knee joint compartment. If you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in a specific knee compartment, it is likely that your partial knee replacement surgeon will further evaluate you for surgery.
Keep in mind that you may not be a candidate for partial knee replacement surgery if you have inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or arthritis related to lupus, because these types usually affect the whole joint. Your osteoarthritis must be limited to one compartment of your knee for partial knee replacement surgery to be a valid option.
In most cases, your partial knee replacement surgeon will not be able to perform this procedure if you have significant angular deformity or cannot bend your knee 90 degrees. Also, if you have substantial damage in the ligaments or major structural problems in the knee, you may not be able to have partial knee replacement surgery.
If your partial knee replacement surgeon determines you are a good candidate for the procedure, and you choose to move forward with the surgery, you will likely experience several benefits. Since the surgeon only needs to operate on one compartment of the knee, they can do the work through a smaller incision. Therefore, patients lose less blood and experience considerably less pain after the procedure, often leaving the hospital sooner as a result.
Recovery time after a partial knee replacement is usually shorter than after a total knee replacement, and patients can expect to be back to their regular daily activities within a three- to six-week timeframe. Keep in mind that with a partial knee replacement, most of the natural joint is preserved. This means patients generally experience a better range of motion and functionality with a partial knee replacement vs. total knee replacement, and it often feels more natural.
Your partial knee replacement surgeon will give you general or regional anesthesia prior to repairing your damaged knee. With general anesthesia, you sleep through the procedure. If spinal or epidural anesthesia is used for this procedure, you stay awake, but the lower region of the body will be numb. No matter which you and your surgeon choose, you’ll be carefully monitored to minimize any complication risks. You will receive antibiotics before the start of surgery to prevent infection. The entire procedure takes place in a sterile environment for the same reason.
Your partial knee replacement surgeon will make a small incision over your knee joint, usually right down the center. All three of the knee compartments can be accessed through this incision. The surgeon will then follow these steps:
- Inspection: They will start by inspecting the joint to make sure they don’t have to move to a contingency plan for total knee replacement, which you will have discussed beforehand.
- Removal: If the inspection shows it is safe to move forward, your surgeon will remove damaged bone tissue and cartilage in the arthritic area from the tibia and femur surfaces.
- Replacement: Once the site is prepared, they will replace the removed bone and cartilage with metal coverings that recreate the surface of the joint. These parts will be specifically sized to your joints.
- Spacer insertion: A plastic insert placed between the metal implants will allow them to glide smoothly during movement.
- Completion: The surgeon will make various measurements and perform functional tests to make sure the implant is seated properly before closing the incision with sutures.
You may need to remain in the hospital for one or two days after partial knee replacement surgery. Most patients can bear weight on the treated leg, either independently or with assistance, the same day as the surgery or soon after. In fact, your surgeon will urge you to become active as soon as possible (within limits) to promote healing and prevent complications.
Though there are risks involved with any surgical procedure, complications from a partial knee replacement are rare. Blood clots in the legs are perhaps the most common adverse event following partial knee replacement, and patients can take blood thinners to prevent this problem. An infection can occur after surgery, which is why your doctors will recommend antibiotics before the procedure, as well as for 24 hours after. In some cases, partial knee replacement surgery does not relieve the original knee pain. If this happens, patients may need an additional surgery to relieve their ongoing symptoms.
Your surgeon will discuss the risks with you and take measures throughout the entire process to avoid any complications. The prognosis for partial knee replacement surgery is usually excellent. The surgery ultimately leads to a more active lifestyle and higher quality of life.
If you think you might be a candidate for partial knee replacement surgery and are looking for an orthopedic surgeon in the New York area, contact Regional Orthopedic. Dr. Montalbano and our team offer a unique multispecialty methodology that allows for comprehensive and compassionate care.
You can rest assured that our highly specialized physicians utilize cutting edge procedures to offer patients inclusive, one-stop services. Find out more about how partial knee replacement surgery can benefit you by contacting Regional Orthopedic today.