Total Knee Replacement vs Partial Knee Replacement

Total Knee Replacement vs Partial Knee Replacement

Joint Replacement surgeries, specifically Knee Replacement surgeries, have become some of the most common procedures performed across the globe. This is due to many types of arthritis affecting our joints and causing joint damage. Much like the end of a chicken bone, our bones are covered with a thin but resilient layer called Hyaline Cartilage. Arthritis can be thought of as the progressive deterioration, or wear, of this layer. As this happens our underlying bones begin to rub against each other causing the substantial pain so many experience. These various types of arthritis can be caused from previous injuries, autoimmune conditions, or even simple wear and tear from activities and aging. Whatever the cause, the results can be debilitating.

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Symptoms of Arthritis

Symptoms of Arthritis range from mild stiffness and soreness to the loss of proper anatomical (muscular and skeletal) function, severe pain consistently felt within the joint, and the inability to walk. As a result, many ask when is it time to see a doctor to seek pain relief for arthritis? In short, if the pain is keeping you from performing your day-to-day activities, we recommend scheduling with a fellowship trained orthopedic joint specialist to see what treatment options will suit your individual symptoms and needs.

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Treatment for Arthritis

For those who come to us with various symptoms of arthritis, there are a few initial steps that need to occur so we can appropriately diagnose your pain as arthritis pain and thus develop a suitable treatment plan for you.

The first step in diagnosis is taking you through a full examination of the joint in question and taking x-ray images. From here, you and your physician will work together to develop a treatment plan specific for the patients needs and lifestyle. In many cases, conservative treatments such as physical therapy or injection therapy, will be recommended as a starting point. If conservative treatment options are unable to help settle the arthritis pain, surgery is often our next best option.

Over the years, the surgeries used to treat arthritis pain have become very commonplace, exceptionally reliable, and tremendously rewarding for both the patient and surgeon when the patient returns to the activities they we’re limited from prior to treatment.

Total Knee Replacement vs Partial Knee Replacement

In most cases “Knee Replacement” can be thought of as a “Knee Resurfacing”. Essentially, the surgeon will remove the worn cartilage layer from the knee and replace (resurface) it with a new layer made of a very smooth hard metal and a medical-grade plastic to restore the joint.

Total Knee Replacement

In the knee, there are three main areas where our bones come in contact with each other. The femur, (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone) and patella (kneecap). Restoring all three of these areas at one time is what we medically classify as a Total Knee Replacement. In many cases, by the time a patient comes to see us, their cartilage damage is severe enough, a Total Knee Replacement is the most appropriate treatment.

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Partial Knee Replacement

Alternatively, there are some instances where only one of these three areas is the culprit for arthritis pain. In this case, a less invasive Partial Knee Replacement may sufficiently relieve the patient’s pain.

A Partial Knee Replacement procedure involves the removal of the one area of damaged cartilage and replacing it with a similar yet more localized hardware. The knee’s unaffected areas are left alone. With most cases, this procedure can be accomplished through smaller incisions causing less surgical injury to the knee. In other words, a Partial Knee Replacement could be classified as a minimally invasive surgery with less harm done to the knee compared to a Total Knee Replacement.

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What to Expect with a Knee Replacement?

One thing to always remember, just because a procedure CAN be performed, does not mean it is always the correct choice. Always thoroughly discuss treatment options with your surgeon when making decisions to undergo surgery. To elaborate, there are some cases where you may not a good candidate for either one of these procedures. Your size, age, weight, overall health, outcome expectations, and  physical limitations or abilities all play a role in whether a knee replacement will be the correct procedure for you. With this, no matter if a partial knee or a total knee replacement is chosen, the procedure must be able to:

  • Be performed safely
  • Improve your function
  • Improve your quality of life
  • Meet your physical ability expectations and support most tasks that you will place on it after surgery.

Furthermore, each procedure requires a visit to either a hospital or a surgery center, where the surgery is performed through an incision over the front of the knee. During the procedure you will be under anesthesia.

Keep in mind, a Total Knee Replacement and a Partial Knee Replacement will both involve some amount of downtime and commitment to a rehabilitation period after surgery. However, with technology advancements we are now able to have most patients up walking with assistance immediately after surgery. Additionally, in many cases we can perform the procedure as an outpatient procedure and send you home to recover the same day as surgery.

Knee Replacement Recovery Time

Although a partial knee replacement may be slightly less painful and overall an easier recovery than a total knee replacement, they are both very dependent on a strict and crucial rehabilitation period. The patient’s diligence with their postoperative physical therapy protocols is critically linked to the success of their surgery. Also, as mentioned previously, your preoperative condition and overall health status greatly affects success of the surgery as well as the time to reach full recovery. If post operative rehabilitation is adhered too, many patients are walking independently within days to weeks following the procedure. Likewise, some patients are able to go back to work within four to ten (4-10) weeks as well. After either type of knee replacement surgery, you can expect to see progressive improvement in your knee’s pain and function for up to a year.

If you are suffering from pain and stiffness in your knees that is not adequately controlled with a conservative treatment, talk with your orthopedic surgeon or call us today to schedule your initial evaluation.

Developed by the Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group Joint Replacement Team

Meet Our Providers

Dr. Tyler Bron, MD

Tyler Bron, MD

Dr. Michael Feign, DO

Michael Feign, DO

Dr. Eric Jepson, DO

Eric Jepson, DO

Dr. Theodore Stringer, MD

Theodore Stringer, MD

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