Knee Replacement Surgery

Total vs. Partial Knee Replacement Surgery

Understanding the difference between total and partial Knee Replacement Surgery.

Knee Replacement Surgery

Total vs. Partial Knee Replacement Surgery

Understanding the difference between total and partial Knee Replacement Surgery.



Knee cartilage can break down over time because of normal wear and tear on the knee. Traumatic injuries to the knees may also result in cartilage breakdown.

Knee arthritis is the condition caused by damaged knee cartilage; knee replacement surgery is one of the ways to treat it. The procedure is for cases where medications and other nonsurgical treatment options are of no benefit to the patient. An individual with knee arthritis may get a partial or total knee replacement depending on the extent of the damage.

Knee Anatomy

There are three main compartments in the knee:

  1. The internal part of the knee called the medial compartment.
  2. The exterior part of the knee called the lateral compartment.
  3. The front of the knee or patellofemoral compartment.

Your knee functions because of the cartilage, tendons, and ligaments in each of these compartments working together.

All of the compartments can undergo damage due to wear and tear or trauma, or the damage may be limited to one or two. As a result, the surgeon may opt to replace one, two or all three.

About Partial Knee Replacement Surgery

The partial knee replacement procedure involves replacing only the affected compartment of the knee.  Because only the damaged compartment is replaced, it is more limited in scope. For instance, the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments are not affected by a partial knee replacement but are removed during a total knee replacement. The smaller scope means that it less invasive so there is less pain and a shorter recovery time. Another benefit is that most people who have a partial knee replacement say that their knee feels natural.

The drawback to having only part of a knee replaced is that the patient may have to repeat the procedure sooner than they would have had to if they had opted for total knee replacement. In fact, many recipients of partial knee transplants still wind up needing total knee transplants. As a result, partial knee transplants are not as common as total transplants.

Ideal Candidates for Partial Knee Replacement

.   Older individuals who are sedentary but who weigh less than 180 lbs.

.   Individuals with stable knee ligaments.

.   Individuals who still have a good range of motion in the knees before the surgery.

About Total Knee Replacement

A total knee replacement involves replacing all of the knee compartments. It is considered more reliable than a partial replacement and lasts longer. In addition, the pain from arthritis is reduced to a greater extent. Patients who receive total knee replacements see greater pain relief because the procedure involves replacing all of the damaged parts.

Drawbacks of a total knee replacement include a longer recovery time and the increased potential for complications.

Ideal Candidates for Total Knee Replacement

There are no restrictions on who should have a total knee replacement. The criteria for this procedure are the level of pain and the extent of the patient’s disability.

It is worth noting that each case is different. Your doctor can only decide which is best for you after they have carefully evaluated your knee. It’s always best to be honest with your doctor and not downplay your pain in order to have a less drastic surgery.

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