If you suffer from debilitating knee pain due to joint degeneration and a doctor has recommended you consider surgery, a total knee replacement may not be the only option available to you. Unicompartmental arthroplasty, or partial knee replacement, is a joint preserving procedure available to some patients who have certain features of their condition which meet the criteria of this unique type of surgery being able to help with decreasing pain and regaining function of the knee.
As leading experts in the field of joint preservation surgery, the orthopedic surgeons at the Joint Surgery Center of Excellence possess extensive training in the most advanced knee replacement techniques. Our team of joint surgery specialists is committed to providing comprehensive and individualized treatment plans, which translate to better outcomes and exceptional patient satisfaction.
Who Is a Candidate for Partial Knee Replacement?
The knee is divided into three major compartments: the medial (inside), lateral (outside), and patellofemoral (front) of the knee. When arthritic or cartilage damage is limited to only one of these compartments, a patient may be eligible for unicompartmental (partial) knee replacement. Partial knee replacement, like total knee replacement, utilizes a special prosthetic to replace the damaged parts of the knee compartment while leaving the rest of the joint intact.
Usually, if a knee is damaged by arthritis, it tends to be generalized throughout the joint. It is uncommon to find it only affecting one compartment. This is why the requirements for unicompartmental arthroplasty are very specific and generally apply only to a small percentage of patients who may be candidates for knee replacement surgery. Patients with inflammatory (rheumatoid) arthritis, significant knee stiffness, or ligament damage are not considered ideal candidates for this procedure. If the damage to the knee surfaces is very extensive, and located in more than one compartment, then total knee arthroplasty is usually recommended, instead. Our surgeons perform a thorough assessment of candidacy for partial knee replacement to ensure that each patient achieves the best results, and that the best procedure for each patient is recommended. Sometimes, knee replacement is not necessary, and the patient would be better suited for a different type of surgery, or none at all. When consulting with our surgeons, each patient is given careful consideration of all available options pertaining to their knee condition.
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Advantages of Unicompartmental Arthroplasty
By definition, a partial knee replacement preserves more of the normal knee anatomy than a total knee replacement. With more of the knee left intact, many patients can achieve more natural movement and feeling in their knee joint upon recovery. Other benefits of partial knee replacement as performed by our orthopedic surgeons include:
- Accelerated rehabilitation
- Better range of motion in the knee
- Lower risk of infection, stiffness, and blood clots
- Potential for outpatient recovery (less than 24 hours spent in the surgical center after surgery)
Several clinical studies have reported that patient satisfaction is higher when undergoing partial compared with total knee replacement. However, the long-term success of any type of knee replacement is highly patient-specific, and both methods can be very effective when properly applied.
Details of the Procedure
Unicompartmental knee arthroplasty (partial knee replacement) is a surgery that should not be decided upon casually. Although our procedures are typically done in an outpatient surgery setting, please be aware that they do involve a formal operating room environment, and undergoing appropriate anesthesia.
After being placed under anesthesia, an incision is made at the front of the knee. The three compartments of the knee are first inspected to verify the location and extent of cartilage damage. If, upon direct examination, the surgeon determines that the knee is unsuitable for unicompartmental arthroplasty, they may perform a total knee replacement instead. Our surgeons discuss this possibility with each patient before undergoing surgery.
During a partial knee replacement, the cartilage is removed from the damaged compartment of the knee using special saws and other surgical devices. The affected surfaces of where the femur (upper) and tibia (lower) leg bones meet are then capped with specially-fashioned prosthetic components that are cemented in place to adhere securely to the bones. Once the surgeon has confirmed proper alignment and stability of the knee, the incision is closed, and the patient is brought to the recovery room and monitored closely afterward.
Recovery from Partial Knee Replacement
The procedure takes about two hours, after which the patient is returned to the recovery room, and is usually able to go home the next morning. As opposed to an average 3 day stay in the hospital after a total knee replacement, patients are typically able to go home from the surgical center less than 24 hours after surgery.
Since the surgical approach used in unicompartmental arthroplasty generally involves less trauma to the bones than a total knee replacement, most patients experience somewhat reduced post-operative pain and swelling around their incision. After undergoing partial knee replacement, a physical rehabilitation program is necessary to restore strength and range of motion to the knee.
Patients considering partial knee replacement must commit to several months of comprehensive physical therapy rehabilitation in order to reduce pain and swelling, restore range of motion of the joint, and rebuild strength in the surrounding muscles of the knee.
If physical therapy is not completed properly, patients may experience a similar type of pain and dysfunction after the surgery as before it.
In order to avoid this unfortunate situation, and achieve a good result, with less pain and increased function/capacity of the knee, physical therapy is an essential part of the surgery and recovery process.
Contact an Expert Joint Replacement Surgeon
The Joint Surgery Center of Excellence features a team of highly skilled orthopedic surgeons specializing in joint replacement surgery. Our knee surgeons are trained in the most advanced knee replacement procedures and are leaders in the field of joint preservation. While many health providers still perform partial knee replacement as an inpatient procedure in a hospital, we are successfully able to perform this joint preserving surgery on an outpatient basis in select patients for whom unicompartmental arthroplasty is the best option for improvement. Our surgeons’ unparalleled technical expertise ensures the best results and optimal recovery for our patients.
To learn more about knee replacement or to schedule a consultation with one of our renowned orthopedic surgeons, please contact us at (888) 318-2842.
Next, learn about total knee replacement.