Full or partial knee replacement? Benefits and considerations

Partial knee replacement, also known as a unicompartmental knee replacement, is a less invasive surgery than a total knee replacement, but each procedure has various benefits and considerations.

A partial knee replacement, as its name suggests, replaces only the affected compartment of the knee. It can replace either the inside (medial) part, the outside (lateral) part, or the kneecap, while a total knee replacement involves all three compartments of the knee.

If the nature, location, and severity of the joint damage is confined to one component of the knee joint, surgeons may recommend partial knee replacement to preserve healthy, functioning joint tissue. Maintaining a healthy weight and having an intact ACL also make partial knee replacement a more viable option for some patients.

Because the bone, cartilage, and ligaments in the healthy parts of the knee are kept in a partial knee replacement, many patients report that it feels more natural and allows the knee to bend better than a total knee replacement. They also tend to feel more flexible, have a faster recovery, and can get back to their normal activities more consistently than with a total knee replacement.

Many studies show that more than 90 percent of partial knee replacements are still functioning well 10 years after the surgery.

Potential candidates for partial knee replacement surgery are often suffering from significant pain and limited mobility due to trauma, osteoarthritis, an inflammatory issue or normal wear and tear. Arthritis alone contributes to a significant number of cases: approximately 20 percent of people in the U.S. will suffer from knee arthritis at some point during their lifetime, and more than a half-million Americans undergo a partial knee replacement every year.

OCC surgeons work with each patient to take many factors into account in deciding if –or when—partial knee replacement is right; using information from x-ray or MRI results, pain level, physical function, personal health history, and weight.

When is the right time for surgery? The answer is different for each patient, but when conservative treatments including exercise, physical therapy, injections, medications don’t sufficiently alleviate the pain, it’s worth exploring your options with your doctor.

Partial knee replacement can often be done on an outpatient basis, but sometimes a hospital stay is involved. Your surgeon will make a small incision on the front of the knee to access and replace damaged bone and/or cartilage and bone with prosthetic or donor tissue.

Most patients have tolerable pain off and on after surgery, that can be managed with over the counter pain medications. In most cases, your surgical team will work with you right away after surgery to get you up and moving and begin physical therapy

Recovery from any type of partial joint replacement surgery, including partial knee replacement, is dependent on the type of joint being replaced, whether the procedure was done outpatient or in a hospital, as well as a patient’s commitment to any ongoing physical or occupational therapy. Together, the surgeon and physical therapists can determine when a patient is ready to return to normal activities.

The skilled surgeons at Orthopedic Centers of Colorado (OCC) who perform partial joint replacements are at the forefront of their field. They use the latest technology to minimize complications and recovery time and are at the leading edge of surgical innovation, pioneering advancements that continue to offer patients better and longer-lasting results.

OCC patients also benefit from a collaborative, compassionate care approach, from diagnosis through rehabilitation. At OCC our goal is simple: to be your first and foremost choice for partial knee replacement. Our offices are conveniently located across the front range and it’s easy to make an appointment. Find the provider that fits your needs and contact us today.

Search locationsSearch doctors