Partial Knee Replacement – Is it Right for You?
Partial Knee Replacement
Osteoarthritis of the knee is a condition that causes damage to the cartilage that protects the bones of the knee joint. The cartilage wears away gradually and this leads to knee pain and stiffness in the knee joint. In osteoarthritis, the damage can be confined to a particular area of the knee or widespread throughout the knee joint. If the damage is confined to a particular area of the knee, then the damaged area can be replaced with an artificial implant called a prosthesis. The procedure is known as Partial Knee Replacement as opposed to replacing the whole joint (Total Knee Replacement).
In partial knee replacement surgery, only the worn-out bone and tissue of the knee joint is replaced while conserving the unaffected cartilage and knee joint.
Partial knee replacement is also known as unicompartmental knee replacement, unicondylar knee replacement or unicondylar knee arthroplasty or partial knee resurfacing.
Partial Knee Replacement is for whom?
If you have advanced osteoarthritis with severe pain and walking difficulty and your symptoms are becoming severe day by day, you must consult your orthopaedic doctor. Your doctor will recommend knee replacement surgery if non-surgical treatment options are no longer beneficial to you. The doctor preferably recommends partial knee replacement if your arthritis is confined to one compartment of your knee joint – as shown in the figure.
Image showing the X-ray of a patient who is the right candidate for partial knee replacement. The image shows severe arthritis limited to one compartment of the knee joint.
The Goal of Partial Knee Replacement
The main objective of your orthopaedic surgeon is to determine whether you are fit and get maximum benefits from the procedure. To fulfil this objective, the orthopaedic surgeon thoroughly examines and evaluates you.
For ensuring a good functional outcome and longevity of a partial knee replacement, confirming whether you are the right patient for partial knee replacement is important. Therefore, your surgeon further evaluates you by taking additional parameters into consideration like special x-rays.
Your orthopaedic surgeon thoroughly evaluates you based on the symptoms you have, your medical history and the location of the pain. Your doctor will test the mobility of your knee joint to know the condition of the ligaments and knee joint. This can be done by testing the knee for a range of motion. Your doctor will order X-rays and other imaging tests to detect the affected area of the knee joint and the extent of damage caused to the knee joint due to arthritis.
The knee joint is a complex structure as its movement depends on muscles, ligaments, joint surface and the tendons that surround the joint. In a partial knee replacement, more of these structures remain unaltered and therefore the movement and mechanics of your knee joint remain more natural and normal as compared to a total knee replacement. Therefore, partial knee replacement feels more comfortable. However, for better outcomes, patients who have undergone partial knee replacement must follow all the instructions given by their orthopaedic surgeons, nurses and physical therapists.
Advantages of Partial Knee Replacement
The advantages of partial knee replacement include smaller incisions, less pain and faster recovery time. This is a preferred procedure for patients whose knee disease is confined to just one area of the knee. Patients who undergo partial knee replacement spend less time in the hospital and return to daily activities sooner.
Dr. Adarsh Annapareddy
MBBS, MS (Ortho)
Consultant Orthopaedic & Joint Replacement Surgeon
Executive Director – Sunshine Hospitals