Total vs. Partial Knee Replacement

Full Knee Joint Replacement vs. Partial Knee Replacement

While it may seem appealing to have half of a surgery compared to a full surgery, it is important to understand the differences between a unicompartmental (partial) and a total knee replacement surgery. Each type of knee replacement surgery is unique and has its own outcomes after surgery.

The knee is composed of three compartments: the inside (medial), outside (lateral) and underneath the kneecap (patellofemoral/anterior). Each of these compartments can be replaced individually in partial knee replacement surgery, or all three can be replaced in total knee replacement surgery*. A partial knee replacement is technically one-third of the surgery of a total knee replacement. If you have a partial knee replacement, you will find improvement in the function of your knee, but there are some long-term factors to consider. Ultimately, your orthopedic surgeon will consider many factors, such as age, bone density and the shape of your joints to determine the exact kind of knee replacement that is best for you.

Total knee replacement surgery

If the cartilage damage in your knee has occurred on both sides of the joint, or in all three joint components, a total knee replacement procedure may be performed. Knee replacement surgery involves resurfacing the knee joint and using artificial components to replace damaged tissue. Our surgeons often use minimally invasive techniques to avoid cutting the large muscle of the thigh known as the quadriceps. In addition, your surgeon may incorporate computer navigation, shape matching technology and robotics to align your knee more precisely. These techniques may allow for a faster recovery. Computer navigation is like GPS for the surgeon and involves fixing navigation pins to the thigh bone (femur) and lower leg bone (tibia) during surgery. The pins are used only for assisting with your procedure and are removed after surgery.

Partial knee replacement surgery

Sometimes, the cartilage damage in your knee is limited to one or two surfaces. When this happens, a partial knee replacement procedure may be more appropriate. There are two types of partial knee replacement surgeries:

Unicompartmental knee replacement - In a unicompartmental knee joint replacement surgery, one part of your knee joint is resurfaced.

Bicompartmental knee replacement - In a bicompartmental knee joint replacement surgery, two parts of your knee joint are resurfaced.

At Adventist Health Simi Valley, your surgeon utilizes an innovative technique involving the use of a MAKO® robotic arm which provides three-dimensional planning before surgery to optimize bone resurfacing and implant positioning during surgery based on your anatomy. The use of robotics allows the surgeon to remove less bone for resurfacing than traditional surgical techniques. This may facilitate improved outcomes after surgery.

Virtual visits with orthopedics

Select patients can see our providers online from their home or office by using our Virtual Visit platform. This service allows you a fast, secure and easy way to receive care from the healthcare team in a live virtual visit using your phone or computer. The benefits of choosing a virtual visit include no travel or parking, less waiting, significant time savings, and the convenience of seeing your physician from wherever you choose. Learn more

To learn more

If you have questions or want to learn more about either a total knee replacement or partial knee replacement, call Kathryn Harada today at 805-955-6233. Kathryn brings a passion for helping patients learn about the types of procedures and the benefits of typical outcomes of each. To speak with Kathryn about your situation, call (805) 955-6233 or fill out the form below.

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Kathryn Harada, BSN, BA, RN, PHN, CNOR


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