Key Differences Between Partial & Total Knee Replacement Surgery

According to the Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality, over 600,000 people have knee replacement surgery every single year in the United States alone.

Most knee surgery patients are between 55 – 75 years old, with chronic osteoarthritis being the usual reason for the surgery.

Mild to moderate arthritis can be treated using non-operative methods such as bracing, medication and physical therapy but once the pain and stiffness start impacting your quality of life, it might be time to consider knee replacement surgery instead.

Partial vs. total knee replacement surgery

Before a surgeon will recommend partial or full knee replacement surgery, they will look at the condition of the various parts of your knee.

Every knee is made up of three key compartments. The first is the medial compartment, which can be found along the inside of the knee, the second is the lateral compartment, which can be found on the outside of the knee and lastly, the patellofemoral compartment is between the kneecap and the thighbone.

At Western Orthopaedics, a full knee replacement will be performed if two or more of these compartments have been affected by arthritis. Severe ligament disabilities and deformities that have been caused by arthritis will also call for full knee replacement surgery.

Partial knee replacement is more ideal for patients who only have one damaged compartment.

Knee replacement surgery overview

During a full knee replacement surgery, the entire knee is recovered with metal and plastic. Thereafter, your surgeon will need to balance the ligaments to any prevent deformities later on. The ligament work that takes place ensures that patients don’t become bow-legged or knock-kneed at a later stage.

Overall, knee replacement surgery is considered to be very safe and is one of the most effective ways to treat the pain and stiffness caused by arthritis.

Most patients should be able to return to their normal routines after 8 weeks but the knee will only be completely healed within a year.

It’s important to note that you will be able to feel the difference between your real knee and the replacement knee. Activities such as running and tennis will be a lot harder to do and it’s recommended that patients rather stick to moderate levels of low-impact activity instead.  

Partial knee replacements are a little different and can be performed in an outpatient setting. It’s also a much quicker procedure and doesn’t require as much time to heal since just one compartment of the knee will be resurfaced.

Partial knee replacement patients will also find it much easier to perform movements such as squatting and kneeling following their surgery. The knee will however still require a full year to be completely healed and high-impact activities are still not recommended.