Difference Between Partial Knee Replacement & Total Knee Replacement
June 17, 2021

Difference Between Partial Knee Replacement & Total Knee Replacement

Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery

Currently, around 7 million or so Americans are living with some variety of knee or hip replacement, with around 600,000 more undergoing a knee replacement each year. This number has been steadily growing in recent years for a variety of reasons; people are living longer and accordingly, may need some replacement parts as their originals wear out. Additionally, technology and surgical techniques are improving, which enables the procedure to be carried out less invasively and with a shorter recovery time. This makes it a considerably more attractive option than it might have been in previous decades.

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Opting for a knee replacement 

There are a wide variety of reasons that knee replacements are carried out; professional athletes often require them later in life due to the strain placed on their joints during their playing careers. But the most common need behind a knee replacement is simply due to osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is common among older Americans, causing deterioration of the cartilage within the knee — so if it can’t be treated successfully with medication, physical therapy or other means, surgery may be the best option to help increase function. 

Knee replacements can significantly restore quality of life to recipients, but they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution; in fact, there can be a significant difference between partial knee replacement and total knee replacement, depending on your specific needs. 

What is the difference between partial and total knee replacement? 

In very simple terms, your knee is divided into three primary components: 

Medial compartment (which runs along the knee’s interior)
Lateral compartment (which lies on the outside of the knee) 
Patellofemoral compartment (which is located on the front of the knee, between the kneecap and thighbone)

However, when your knee is injured or damaged by arthritis, not all three of these components are necessarily equally affected. So in some instances, it may be more feasible to replace one or two of these components, as opposed to replacing all three. This would be a partial knee replacement, as only some of the original material is being replaced. 

In contrast, a total knee replacement would replace all three of these components with a mix of plastic and metal parts. While replacing the knee’s parts are the most obvious part of the procedure, a damaged knee can also affect the overall structure of the leg, particularly if you’ve been living with injuries or issues like osteoarthritis for an extended period. Accordingly, a ligament readjustment is also often required on either side of the knee, to ensure that you have the maximum possible mobility afterwards. 

Regaining mobility 

Both partial and total knee replacements offer their own advantages and disadvantages. Partial knee replacements typically offer quicker recovery times and greater mobility once the injury has healed, though there will still usually be some restrictions on what type of sports and activities should be undertaken. However, if you’re living with a degenerative condition such as osteoarthritis, it’s possible that there will still be the need for a total knee replacement ahead in the future. 

Total knee replacements can be more effective at addressing long-term issues but also have a longer recovery time and tend to mean that your activities will be slightly more restricted once recovery is complete. Nonetheless, they are still a great way to recover mobility and enjoy a better quality of life

The next steps

Your orthopedic physician will be able to explain the difference between partial and total knee replacement surgery in more detail, and also assess whether or not you require a partial or complete knee replacement. 

Here at Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery, we carry out a variety of complete, partial and custom knee reconstructions. If you’re in need of knee replacement surgery, get in touch with us today to discover more about how we can help you.