By Adrian Baddar, MD, FAAOS
With a growing population of aging baby boomers, knee replacements are becoming one of the most common orthopedic surgeries across the country. While many people opt for a total knee replacement, partial knee replacements can offer numerous benefits for qualifying patients.
Partial knee replacements replace just one part of the knee joint, most often on the medial side (inside) of the knee. As we walk and stand, most of our stress and weight goes to the side of the knee, so it tends to wear out the fastest.
Because only one part of the knee is removed and replaced, partial knee replacements are a much smaller operation, which means less pain and a faster recovery. Though the surgery itself takes about the same amount of time due to the delicacy of the operation, recovery can be up to twice as fast as with a total knee replacement. Instead of a couple of months to regain function in the knee, it takes just a few weeks.
In addition to faster recovery, partial knee replacements often feel more natural than total knee replacements. Patients report that their knee feels the same as it did before as they walk, squat, or stand.
Changes to pain management also make partial knee replacements less painful than in the past. Nerve blocks, localized drugs and anesthesia, and injectable anti-inflammatory medicines work together to help you get up and moving just hours after your procedure.
Unfortunately, not all patients qualify for a partial knee replacement. If patients have arthritis in other areas of their knee, a partial knee replacement is unlikely to provide long-term pain relief. Patients also won’t benefit from a partial knee replacement if they have significant knee deformities, like being knock-knee or bow-legged. A partial knee replacement won’t be enough to fix these deformities, so their joints will continue to wear out.
A partial knee replacement also won’t help if patients have damage to ligaments in the knee, such as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). They will need a total knee replacement to address these concerns.
If knee pain disrupts a patient’s quality of life, they should meet with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss their replacement options. With X-ray imaging and other diagnostic techniques, their doctor can help them decide if partial knee replacement is right for them.
Adrian Baddar, MD, FAAOS, is an orthopaedic surgeon at Hampton Roads Orthopaedics Spine and Sports Medicine specializing in joint replacement. hrosm.com