Partial Knee Replacement: Purpose and Risks

Partial knee replacement is a surgical method used to substitute a total knee replacement. It is often performed to patients who are suffering from osteoarthritis.

Partial knee replacement

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a disease occurring in the knees joint. When the connective tissue in the joint, called articular cartilage, wears off, that is when a person starts to experience the ferocity of the condition. There is no age bracket on to whom the condition may occur. Both genders are equally affected, too. However, after 50 years of age, women are more prone to have it.

Articular cartilage serves as the wall that prevents bones from rubbing each other. Additionally, it cushions the joints to absorb shock as well as to provide you with stable and smooth movement. Thus, imagine if the cartilage wears off. Your movement will be limited due to joint pain and stiffness as there is no cushioning substance to stop two bones from scraping each other.

Thinning the articular cartilage is a big problem. Nevertheless, medical experts have come with a good idea to solve this problem in the form of partial knee replacement.

What is Partial Knee Replacement?

Partial knee replacement is a surgical procedure that can substitute a total knee replacement. The procedure is applicable to patients with knee osteoarthritis. It is usually done when the damage is in the part of the knee where doctors cannot reach.

Historically, the surgery is kept to older people. They tend to have fewer activities. However, the modern world also referred the surgery to the young people as it shows that the surgery offers a painless and faster recovery.

In doing the surgery, only the damaged knee cartilage is need of a replacement. Not with new cartilage, but with a prosthesis.

If you are asking for the advantages of the surgery, they are as follows:

  • Smaller Incision – compared to total knee replacement, which traditionally gives you a cut for about 8 inches, total knee replacement is much smaller as it dissects on the significant area only.
  • Less Blood Loss – with the smaller incision made by the surgeon, lesser blood loss is expected during the procedure.
  • Shorter Recovery – Your time in the hospital, as well as your recovery at home is much shorter. You may experience your knee back to normal in just a few weeks.
  • Normal Knee Kinematics – Your knee movement is far greater compared with a total knee replacement.

Partial Knee Replacement versus Total Knee Replacement

In total knee replacement, patients are expected to undergo a process wherein the entire cartilage is replaced with a plastic or metal prosthetics. Meanwhile, partial knee replacement requires a small incision only, which makes the recovery quicker.

The goal of partial knee replacement is to replace the damaged area in the joint and not to replace the whole of the joint.

The preservation of the range of motion plus the knee function are some on the list of patients to consider partial knee replacement than total knee replacement. The procedure tends to preserve healthy bone and tissue in the knee. However, patients who went in partial knee replacement does not exclude them to be out of the total knee replacement candidacy.

Another advantage of partial knee replacement is the lesser blood loss during the procedure. Patients have a faster recovery as well compared with total knee replacement.

What are the Risks of Surgery?

Most medical surgical procedures are associated with possible risks. Partial knee replacement is not exempted to this. The possible risk with the surgery are:

  • Blood clots and infection are included as a risk factor, however, these are rare complications.
  • Stiffness in the knee joint is inevitable.
  • You may experience the prosthesis to loosen, dislocate, and fail, resulting in a continuous pain as well as infection.

Who can Undergo a Partial Knee Replacement?

Patients who suffer from either lateral or medial knee osteoarthritis are the candidate for partial knee replacement.

Your joint has an inside and outside compartment. The one on the outside and far from the opposite knee is referred to as “lateral”. Thus, you might have the idea that the inside compartment, near the opposite knee, is “medial”. In these two categories, medial knee joint degeneration is more common.

But aside from medial or lateral patients, there are other factors that may consider a person to the surgery. These are:

  • If a persistent knee pain occurs in spite of your continuous anti-inflammatory drug consumption, you may consider undergoing the procedure.
  • Your doctor may evaluate the area of knee pain by asking you some questions or by observing your knee stability and range of motion. Your doctor may also conduct a knee X-ray to identify if you are eligible to proceed in the procedure. However, knowing if you are a good candidate is unknown to your doctor until he/she performs the surgery.
  • You may have one or all of the following condition: stable knee, compartment damage, an adequate range of motion of your knee, and cruciate ligament.
  • The procedure was only considered among older patients before because of their sedentary lifestyle. But now, even the active, younger patient is considered in the candidacy of the operation.
  • Partial knee replacement is applicable to knee arthritis that is placed in a limited area. If the area if bigger, then it is not appropriate to do the procedure.

What to Expect During the Recovery?

First, you should expect that moving your knee is impossible on the first day. However, its function will be back in the quickest time. You will experience lesser pain compare with total knee replacement.

In 1 to 2 days you may be discharged from the hospital. However, during your stay (and even after), a physical therapist will guide you in mobilizing your knee. Medication will also be provided by your health care provider to avoid blood clots formation.

If the operation has been totally successful, you can go back by doing your favorite activity without feeling any pain in your knees. Though activities like skiing and tennis are allowed, some activities such as running and jogging are forbidden. It is because the prosthetics include bearing exterior that can wear off. But other than that, you are back to what you like doing most. After all, this is why most people consider partial knee replacement.

Partial knee replacement

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