Dr. Oluwaseun Akinbo: Am I a candidate for a partial knee replacement?
Partial knee and total knee replacements are ways of surgically treating knee arthritis. There are three main compartments in the knee: the medial (inside of the knee), the lateral (outside of the knee), and the patellofemoral compartments (under the knee cap). When arthritis is limited to one part of the knee, a partial knee replacement is an option (as is a total knee placement).
A partial knee replacement can be performed when arthritis and pain in the knee is limited to one compartment. People with arthritis in just one compartment of the knee will often be able to point to one spot in the knee as the source of their pain. X-rays will confirm that the arthritis is limited to one knee compartment.
A partial knee replacement replaces just one compartment and is in essence one third of a total knee replacement. As such, the rehabilitation is quicker as a partial knee replacement more closely approximates a normal knee than a total knee replacement. However, partial knees can fail and one of the most common reasons for failure is progression of arthritis in other knee compartments. This would necessitate conversion to a total knee replacement.
A total knee replacement is performed when arthritis is in more than one compartment in the knee. This can be confirmed with x-rays. A total knee replacement is also an option when arthritis is limited to just one compartment.
A total knee replacement involves replacing at least two compartments in the knee (medial and lateral); it can involve replacing all three. The rehabilitation from a total knee replacement can be more involved than from a partial knee replacement. Nevertheless, total knee replacements are more reliable with longer lasting implants than partial knee replacements.
About 10% of knee replacements performed in the United States are partial knee replacements. Both surgeries can provide good outcomes and satisfaction in properly selected patients. A point to remember is that a partial knee replacement is an option for surgically managing knee arthritis but not everyone would be a candidate for it.
Dr. Oluwaseun Akinbo M.D. is an orthopedic surgeon at HaysMed. For more information, https://www.haysmed.com/oluwaseun-akinbo/.