Partial Knee Replacement vs. Total Knee Replacement: What Are My Options?

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Partial Knee Replacement vs. Total Knee Replacement: What Are My Options?

Knee pain is a daily reality for millions of Americans suffering from arthritis. For patients who have arthritis and have been through a round of nonsurgical treatment, knee replacement is an outstanding option.

Knee replacement surgery relieves chronic knee pain and enables you to live a fuller, more active life. Studies show that more than 90% of knee replacement patients experience a dramatic reduction in pain.1

One part of the decision at that point is whether to proceed with a partial or total knee replacement. That decision depends on the condition of the various parts of the individual’s knee. Both partial and total knee replacements have unique benefits and outcomes.

Total vs. Partial: What are my options?

Total Knee Replacement: The knee has three main compartments: the medial compartment (along the inside of the knee), the lateral compartment (along the outside of the knee), and the patellofemoral compartment (the front of the knee between the kneecap and thighbone. Total knee replacement involves replacing all three knee compartments with an artificial prostheses. The best candidates for total knee surgery are those with severe arthritis involving at least two of the three parts of the knee as well as those patients with arthritis so severe as to cause a deformity or ligament problems that lead to instability. These deformities can include a severe bow-legged deformity, knock-kneed deformity, or the inability to straighten or bend the knee.

Partial Knee Replacement: In a unicompartmental or partial knee replacement, just one knee compartment is surgically resurfaced. Previously, partial knee replacement was for patients over 60 and those with lower activity demands.. More recently, we are performing the procedure in younger people with high activity demands such as singles tennis, skiing, and aggressive hiking.. The recovery is typically faster than a total knee replacement.

Partial knee replacements are restricted to patients with arthritis in just one part of the knee. In patients, with no severe deformity or instability, we usually recommend a partial knee replacement. This procedure can be done through a smaller incision and with a faster recovery. Additionally, there is some evidence that partial knee replacements feel more like our own original knee than total knee replacements.

Advantages of total knee replacement:

  • Greater reliability for relieving painful symptoms for severe arthritis involving multiple parts of the knee.
  • Ability to correct deformity and ligament insufficiency
  • Typically less complicated surgery from the surgical perspective
  • Longest life expectancy of the implant (greater than 20 years for 96% of patients)

Advantages of partial knee replacement:

  • Smaller incisions result in more minor scars
  • Less blood loss
  • Less postoperative pain
  • Quicker recovery times
  • Natural feel to the knee
  • Better stability

Knee replacement surgery has revolutionized orthopedics allowing many patients the ability to live an active and full life. The improvements in surgical techniques for knee replacement surgery offer excellent long-term outcomes. Both partial and total knee replacement provides excellent success rates for patients.

Dr. Amir Jamali is an expert in treatment of knee pain, using robotic technology and the latest advancements in joint replacement.

Dr. Amir Jamali, founder of the Joint Preservation Institute, is a board-certified fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon in Northern California specializing in treatments for the knee, hip and shoulder.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3268939/