Over the course of their lifetimes, approximately one in five Americans will develop knee arthritis. Fortunately, a wide range of nonsurgical and surgical techniques are available to address the discomfort and disability that can accompany this condition.
Partial knee replacement is a reconstructive surgical treatment option that replaces (or resurfaces) only the damaged portion of the knee, while conserving knee ligaments and unaffected cartilage. Over the past 15 years, improvements in minimally-invasive surgical techniques and instrumentation have made partial knee replacement a viable option for a growing number of patients.
Patients with unicompartmental knee arthritis have cartilage degeneration in only one section or compartment of the knee. In cases where nonsurgical techniques do not provide sufficient symptom relief, surgeons can remove damaged cartilage and bone in the diseased area only, while preserving the ligaments that help support the knee joint.
A prosthesis—which may also be called an implant—takes the place of the damaged area of the knee, leaving the other compartments intact.
During partial knee replacement, the orthopedic surgeon makes a small incision to gain access to the affected compartment of the knee and then gently moves supporting structures of the knee out of the way. Damaged cartilage and bone tissue are removed from the surfaces of the tibia and the femur in the arthritic area. The surgeon then prepares these surfaces for insertion of the prosthesis components which are specifically sized to the patient’s joint. Cement is used to secure these components. All surrounding structures and tissues are restored to their anatomic position and the incision is closed.
Partial knee replacement is usually performed as an outpatient procedure in a surgical center with no overnight stay. Most patients are able to walk with assistance, or independently, on the same day as their surgery. Typically, the patient is given a cane within a week of surgery to allow for increased independence and begins outpatient rehabilitation. Medication helps manage post-surgical pain.
Partial knee replacement usually involves minimal blood loss and a low rate of complications. Most patients can expect to be back to their daily activities within three to six weeks. Many patients find that after undergoing physical rehabilitation, they are able to return to sports such as golf or bike riding within six to ten weeks.
There are no age restrictions for partial knee replacement, but in general, partial knee replacements are typically appropriate for patients over 40 years old and less than 60 but each case is evaluated according to the needs and activity of the patient. Partial knee replacement is generally restricted to patients who are not morbidly obese. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are not candidates for partial knee solutions since inflammatory-type arthritis typically involves the entire joint. Also patient age is typically over forty and less than 60 but each case is evaluated according to the needs and activity of the patient.
Your orthopedic surgeon will perform diagnostic tests and determine with you whether partial knee replacement is your best treatment option.
Partial knee reconstruction is widely recognized as a technically demanding surgery. Choosing an orthopedic surgeon with extensive experience with this procedure will help to ensure the best possible outcome.