Knee replacement surgery is a procedure used to help people dealing with severe pain and limited mobility related to a damaged knee joint. This surgery, also called knee arthroplasty, replaces damaged surfaces of the joint with knee implants that help promote better function. Undergoing these types of surgical procedures can help patients find relief and get back to a more active lifestyle.

The decision to undergo any form of surgery is important, but it can feel overwhelming. This is why it is so important to educate yourself as a patient and learn about the full spectrum of approaches to knee replacement surgery and why a surgeon may recommend one or the other. 

The OJRCA team has put together the following guide exploring the whys of knee replacement surgery, the difference between partial knee replacement and total knee replacement, and how surgeons are now able to perform these surgical procedures on a minimally invasive and outpatient basis. 

We welcome any questions and ask you to reach out if you need answers or more information about the conditions we treat and our treatment options. 

Why do Surgeons Perform Knee Replacement Surgery?

Surgeons perform knee replacement surgery to improve function and mobility in cases of severe damage to the knee joint. The most common cause of this type of knee damage is a degenerative joint disease, particularly osteoarthritis. As we age, our protective knee cartilage can lose elasticity and become brittle. Over time, the cartilage will wear down and cause bone on bone friction that damages the surface of the joint. 

Other causes of knee joint damage include rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory autoimmune diseases, as well as previous knee injury or trauma, particularly if it didn’t heal properly. 

Knee replacement surgery of any kind is typically a treatment of last resort. Doctors will generally have patients diagnosed with a knee joint disease fully explore nonsurgical treatments such as physical therapy, injections of numerous types, and medications to diminish inflammation. Patients with knee problems can also benefit from committing to a healthy lifestyle that includes optimal nutrition, weight management, and regular exercise. 

If knee damage appears to be progressing and symptoms are worsening after a patient has fully exhausted conservative therapies, surgical procedures often begin to become a serious consideration. 

Partial Knee Replacement Surgery and Total Knee Replacement Surgery 

Two primary approaches to knee replacement surgery are total knee replacement and partial knee replacement. As the names imply, a total knee replacement involves replacing the entire surface of the knee joint, while a partial knee replacement only involves replacing a section or compartment of the joint, such as just the inside, the outside, or the kneecap parts. The partial knee is done in the case where the remainder of the knee still has most of the cartilage in good condition.

A partial knee replacement is also sometimes referred to as unicompartmental knee replacement. This is because the knee joint is divided into three compartments, which are:

  • The lateral compartment, or outside of the knee joint
  • The medial compartment, or inside of the knee joint
  • The patellofemoral compartment, or middle of the knee joint

Often, diagnosing physicians will review diagnostic imagery and find that joint damage is limited to one section of the knee joint and not the other two. Surgeons developed partial knee replacements as a way to resurface the worn out part of the knee without removing sections that are still healthy. The new surfaces will have a hard durable plastic spacer that many surgeons refer to as the “new cartilage”.. 

In contrast, a total knee replacement surgery is recommended when all or a significant portion of the knee joint is damaged, requiring a total replacement. This will involve replacing the surfaces throughout the entire knee joint, often referred to as resurfacing.

There are other factors that will make a patient a candidate for a partial or total knee replacement. For example, people diagnosed with inflammatory autoimmune arthritis or who have extensive ligament damage will typically require a total knee replacement. 

What is the Difference Between Traditional Knee Replacement and Minimally Invasive Knee Replacement?

For years, any type of knee replacement surgery required a large incision, with the traditional procedure being performed on an inpatient basis at a hospital, with the patient staying for several days due to pain and the need for extensive physical therapy due to the extensive surgery. 

To be able to see the knee joint and fully assess the level of joint damage, surgeons would have to make a long incision, often 8 to 10 inches, right down the middle of the knee. This means disruption of soft tissue surrounding the knee that can increase the healing time. 

However, thanks to advancements in orthopedic surgical technology and the development of new techniques, surgeons have learned how to perform minimally invasive knee replacement surgery through smaller incisions around 6 inches in some cases. Additionally, there is less disruption of surrounding tissue. Advantages to minimally invasive knee replacement include:

  • A significantly smaller incision 
  • Less disruption of muscles and connective tissue
  • The ability to perform the procedure on an outpatient basis
  • Lower risk of infection and complication
  • A shorter and less difficult recovery period

Minimally invasive techniques for knee replacement surgery can vary depending on the condition being treated and the extent of knee joint damage. You should expect a detailed discussion with your surgeon regarding what to expect in your specific case. 

Never be afraid to ask questions. If you feel like your surgeon or consulting physician does not take time to explain your procedure or give you the answers you need, it is often a good indicator to seek treatment elsewhere. 

Becoming a Candidate for Minimally Invasive Knee Replacement and Taking Recovery Seriously

Virtually all patients are candidates for less invasive knee replacement surgery. Patients will typically undergo an evaluation to determine if they have any health issues that would preclude knee surgery in general. 

Patients will be given personalized instructions from their surgical team that should be followed closely. Physical therapy and rehabilitation is critical to helping patients with knee implants regain strength and range of motion and ensuring a full and proper healing process. 

Would You Like to Learn More About Knee Replacement Surgery? Call OJRCA Today.

If you’re suffering from chronic knee pain and conservative treatments are no longer helping you manage your symptoms, please call the dedicated team at OJRCA. Our experienced treatment professionals are here to sit down with you, provide a full evaluation and help you understand your treatment options. If you have any questions at all about our treatment options, the conditions we treat or our facilities, don’t hesitate to reach out. At OJRCA, we are committed to patient-centered care and treating everyone who comes to us for relief like family.  

We’ve found that in the vast majority of cases, knee joint replacement surgery performed as an outpatient procedure is an effective choice for patients with advanced arthritis and other degenerative conditions.

Call us at 813-492-4412 or reach out online.


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