A partial knee replacement is surgery to replace only one part of a damaged knee. It can replace either the inside (medial) part, the outside (lateral) part, or the kneecap part of the knee.
Surgery to replace the whole knee joint is called total knee replacement.
Partial knee replacement surgery removes damaged tissue and bone in the knee joint. It is done when arthritis is present in only part of the knee. The areas are replaced with an artificial implant, called a prosthetic. The rest of your knee is preserved. Partial knee replacements are most often done with smaller incisions, so there is less recovery time.
Before surgery, you will be given medicine that blocks pain (anesthesia). You will have one of two anesthesia types:
- Before surgery, you will be given medicine that blocks pain (anesthesia). You will have one of two anesthesia types:
- General anesthesia. You will be asleep and pain-free during the procedure.
- Regional (spinal or epidural) anesthesia. You will be numb below your waist. You will also get medicines to make you relax or feel sleepy.
- The surgeon will make a cut over your knee. This cut is about 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 13 centimeters) long.
- Next, the surgeon looks at the entire knee joint. If there is damage to more than one part of your knee, you may need a total knee replacement. Most of the time this is not needed, because tests done before the procedure would have shown this damage.
- The damaged bone and tissue are removed.
- A part made from plastic and metal is placed into the knee.
- Once the part is in the proper place, it is attached with bone cement.
- The wound is closed with stitches.
Why the Procedure is Performed
The most common reason to have a knee joint replaced is to ease severe arthritis pain.
Your health care provider may suggest knee joint replacement if:
- You can't sleep through the night because of knee pain.
- Your knee pain prevents you from doing daily activities.
- Your knee pain has not gotten better with other treatments.
- You will need to understand what surgery and recovery will be like.
Partial knee arthroplasty may be a good choice if you have arthritis in only one side or part of the knee and:
- You are older, thin, and not very active.
- You do not have very bad arthritis on the other side of the knee or under the kneecap.
- You have only minor deformity in the knee.
- You have good range of motion in your knee.
- The ligaments in your knee are stable.
However, most people with knee arthritis have a surgery called a total knee arthroplasty (TKA).
Knee replacement is most often done in people age 60 and older. Not all people can have a partial knee replacement. You may not be a good candidate if your condition is too severe. Also, your medical and physical condition may not allow you to have the procedure.
Risks for this surgery include:
- Blood clots
- Fluid buildup in the knee joint
- Failure of the replacement parts to attach to the knee
- Nerve and blood vessel damage
- Pain with kneeling
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (rare)
- Before the Procedure
- Always tell your provider which drugs you are taking, including herbs, supplements, and medicines bought without a prescription.