Partial Knee Replacement

Osteoarthritis and joint injuries do not always impact every bone equally. In some cases, only a portion of your joint may become diseased, damaged, or painful. When that happens, a total knee replacement can eliminate a significant amount of healthy bone and tissue.

That’s why surgeons developed the partial knee replacement. Less invasive and less intense than a total knee replacement, this procedure removes only a portion of your knee joint. This returns mobility to patients, diminishes pain, and involves a shorter recovery period.

As a result, partial knee replacement is a popular option–but it’s not for everyone.

What Happens During a Partial Knee Replacement Surgery?

Partial knee replacement is almost always performed on an outpatient basis. This means that your procedure will take place in a hospital setting, but you’ll typically be able to return home the same day.

During your pre-operative meetings with Dr. Rierson or Dr. Leupold, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns you might have. You’ll also talk about whether general or spinal anesthesia is the right option for you.

A partial knee replacement will typically take between 45-60 minutes. Here’s what happens during that time:

  • Your surgeon will make a small incision along the knee.
  • Your surgeon will then evaluate your joint. Typically, imaging scans do a pretty good job of locating all of your joint damage–but they aren’t perfect. Your surgeon will make sure a partial knee replacement still makes sense for you.
  • Your surgeon will then use special tools and saws to remove the damaged portion of cartilage or bone.
  • The portion of the knee that was removed is replaced by an artificial prosthetic. This prosthetic portion of the knee will function as your typical knee does. These metal pieces are usually secured to your bones using surgical cement.
  • Once the replacement is complete, the incisions are closed, and you’ll be taken to another room for the first stage of your recovery.

Once you’re awake, a physical therapist will attempt to get you standing and moving in order to encourage fast and full healing. 

What Are the Advantages of Partial Knee Replacement?

Because of its faster recovery period and positive results, partial knee replacements are a popular surgical option. However, only 5-6% of knee replacement patients are a good fit for the partial approach. 

That’s because the joint damage must be confined to only one area of the knee. (There are three compartments of the knee–and damage must be confined to only one of these compartments.)

For patients who are a good fit for a partial knee replacement, however, there are some significant benefits to this approach:

  • Because the incision is smaller and the replacement is less extensive, recovery time is usually faster.
  • You will likely retain more range of motion after your procedure.

The most significant drawback to a partial knee replacement is that, because the rest of the joint bones remain, there is always the potential for more disease in the future. This means that it’s always possible you will still need full knee replacement somewhere down the line.

Recovery from Partial Knee Replacement

Your recovery team will likely get you standing on the same day as your surgery. They will also show you how to use assistive devices, such as a cane or a walker. It’s likely you will need these assistive devices for at least a few weeks after your procedure.

However, you should be able to walk under your own power 3-4 weeks after surgery. And you should be in a position to resume most normal activities around the 6 week mark.

Most patients will require regular physical therapy for somewhere between 6 and 12 weeks. The exercises you perform with your physical therapist will help to build strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the joint. You will also continue to meet with Dr. Rierson or Dr. Leupold in order to ensure your recovery is on track.

Your orthopedic surgeon will provide you with personalized recovery instructions, including how to look out for possible complications, such as blood clots and infections.

Talk to Your Orthopedic Surgeons About Partial Knee Replacement

Whether you’re a good candidate for a partial knee replacement or better suited to a total knee replacement surgery, the process starts by consulting with your orthopedic surgeon.

At Lakes Regional Healthcare, Dr. Rierson and Dr. Leupold have a long track record of helping patients get back on their feet–and back to the activities they love. Talk to a surgeon who will listen to your needs and work with you to devise the best treatment plan possible.

Contact us today to get started–and get back to the activities you enjoy most!