Partial Knee Replacement

Partial knee replacement surgery is recommended for patients with knee arthritis or a knee injury limited to one side of the knee. During a partial knee replacement (also known as a unicompartmental knee replacement), only the damaged side of the knee is replaced with prosthetics, and healthy bone remains.

Ideal Candidate for Partial Knee Replacement

The knee is made up of three compartments, including the medial compartment (the inside part of the knee), the lateral compartment (the outside part of the knee), and the patellofemoral compartment (the front of the knee between the kneecap and the thigh bone). If you have advanced osteoarthritis or a knee injury limited to a single compartment of the knee, you may be a candidate for partial knee replacement. 

During the procedure, the damaged compartment is replaced with metal and plastic, and the healthy cartilage, bone, and ligaments are preserved.

You would not be a candidate for partial knee replacement if you have any of the following characteristics:

  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Significant knee stiffness
  • Ligament damage

Advantages of a Partial Knee Replacement

For patients undergoing a partial knee replacement, the advantages over a total knee replacement include:

  • Quicker recovery
  • Less pain after surgery
  • Less blood loss
  • More flexibility in the knee (may bend better)
  • Feels more like a normal knee (as healthy cartilage, bone, and ligaments are preserved)
  • Retains more natural function of the knee

Disadvantages of Partial Knee Replacement

The disadvantages of partial knee replacement as compared to a total knee replacement include:

  • Slightly less predictable pain relief
  • Need for more surgery in the future (if arthritis develops in other compartments of the knee)

Partial Knee Replacement Consultation

During your consultation, your orthopedic surgeon will determine whether or not you are a candidate for partial knee replacement.

Medical History

Your orthopedic surgeon will ask you several questions about your medical history, including the location of your knee pain and if it affects your ability to function.

The location of your pain is an important determining factor. If the pain is located entirely on the inside portion or outside portion of the knee, you may be a candidate for this procedure. If your pain radiates throughout your entire knee or in the front of your knee (under your kneecap), you may be a better candidate for total knee replacement.

Physical Examination

During your physical exam, your orthopedic surgeon will closely examine your knee to determine the location of your pain. He will also test your knee for range of motion and ligament quality. If your knee is too stiff or if your knee ligaments feel weak or torn, then he will not recommend partial knee replacement surgery for you and may recommend a total knee replacement surgery instead.

Imaging Tests

Your orthopedic surgeon will order several x-rays of your knee to see the pattern of arthritis or knee injury. These images will determine the extent of damage and deformity in your knee. For some patients, he may order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for a better image of the cartilage.

After your consultation, your surgeon will let you know whether or not you are a candidate for partial knee replacement. If you are a candidate, your surgery will be scheduled accordingly.

Partial Knee Replacement Preop Visit

You will be scheduled for a preoperative clinic visit at least 1 month before your surgery date. This is time for you to review the procedure with your orthopedic surgeon and to have any of your questions answered.

During your preoperative visit, your doctor will discuss your options for anesthesia, as well as the need for a contingency plan. If your surgeon discovers that the extent of cartilage damage you have at the time of your surgery is more than what was expected, then the contingency plan will be to convert your procedure to a total joint replacement.

Partial Knee Replacement Surgery

On the day of surgery, you will be admitted to the hospital.

A doctor from the anesthesia department will discuss anesthesia choices with you. You may choose to have either general anesthesia where you are put to sleep, or you can have a spinal where you are awake, but your body is numb from the waist down.

Before surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will come to see you and mark your surgical site with a marker.

Surgical Procedure

Your orthopedic surgeon will inspect the joint, make an incision at the front of your knee, and then explore the three compartments of your knee to verify that the cartilage damage is limited to one compartment and that your ligaments are intact.

Once verified, your doctor will proceed with the partial knee replacement, which involves three basic steps:

  • Prepare the bone with special saws to remove the cartilage from the damaged compartment of your knee.
  • Position the metal implants in the place of the removed cartilage and bone, recreating the surface of the joint. Cement may be used to hold the metal parts to the bone.
  • Insert a spacer between the two metal components to create a smooth gliding surface.

Recovery Room

After your procedure, you will be taken to the recovery room and closely monitored as you recover from the anesthesia. From there, you will be taken to your hospital room.

Recovery from Partial Knee Replacement

Partial knee replacement allows for quicker recovery times and less pain in recovery when compared to a total knee replacement, as the partial knee replacement is done through a smaller incision. Because the procedure is less invasive, patients usually spend less time in the hospital and return to normal activities sooner than total knee replacement patients.

Partial Knee Replacement Surgery in Modesto, CA

At OrthoMed, our knee replacement surgeons are board-certified by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), and they have specialized training in adult arthritis and joint replacement surgery. Their practice focuses on personalized care for patients of all ages seeking to reduce pain, improve function, and return to active lifestyles. 

If you think partial knee replacement surgery may be right for you, please call OrthoMed at (209) 524-4438 to schedule an appointment. For your convenience, you may also request an appointment online.

Partial Knee Replacement FAQs

How long does a partial knee replacement procedure take?

Typically, a partial knee replacement procedure takes between 1 to 2 hours.

What is the recovery time for a partial knee replacement?

After the operation, most patients are in the hospital for 1 to 3 days. Some patients, however, may be discharged the same day of surgery. The recovery period is shorter than for a total knee replacement because patients experience less postoperative pain, less swelling, and have easier rehabilitation.

You should be able to return to your normal activities within 6 weeks after surgery.

What aftercare instructions do you need to follow?

Pain medication is prescribed to help you feel as comfortable as possible. Your orthopedic surgeon may prescribe opioids (narcotics), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or local anesthetics to help control pain. You must follow your doctor’s instructions regarding opioids. Narcotics can be addictive, so you should stop taking these medications as soon as your pain is tolerable without them.

Physical therapy is an integral part of your rehabilitation. A physical therapist will give you exercises to help maintain your range of motion and restore your strength.

Follow-up visits will be scheduled for you at regular intervals to assess your recovery and rehabilitation.

How soon can you put weight on your knee after surgery?

You can begin putting weight on your knee immediately after surgery. However, you may need a walker, cane, or crutches for support for the first several days or weeks until you are comfortable enough to walk without assistance.

Are partial knee replacements successful?

With the right patient selection, partial knee replacements have demonstrated excellent to medium long-term results in both younger and older patients.

1335 Coffee Road Suite #101
Modesto, CA 95355

Phone: (209) 524-4438

Monday through Friday
8:00 am - 5:00 pm

About Us
OrthoMed Center aims to be the preferred provider of high-quality musculoskeletal care to the people of Modesto. We provide cutting-edge medical care while also ensuring we treat patients and their families with the utmost compassion as they find their way back to good health.
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