Total versus partial knee replacement

If you’ve been putting off knee surgery, your ears may perk up at the mention of a partial knee replacement instead of a full knee replacement. But what is the difference between the two procedures?

Both types of knee surgery have their own benefits. An orthopedic surgeon ultimately considers many factors, such as age, bone density and the shape of your joints to determine exactly which kind of replacement will be best for you.

Knee replacement options

To understand knee surgery options, first you need to understand the knee joint. The knee has three compartments:

  • Inside, or medial, compartment
  • Outside, or lateral, compartment
  • Underneath the kneecap, or the patellofemoral/anterior compartment

When you have a total knee replacement, the surgeon will replace all three of these compartments. A partial knee replacement means that only one of these compartments needs to be replaced. In both procedures, the overall goal is to improve your knee function and increase your quality of life.

Total knee replacement surgery

If you have damage on both sides of your knee or in all three joint compartments, your doctor may recommend a total knee replacement.

Total knee replacement surgery uses artificial components to replace damaged tissue in the knee joint. 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 operate more precisely. Computer navigation is like GPS for the surgeon. The technique 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. All these techniques may mean that you can recover from surgery more quickly.

Partial knee replacement surgery

If you only have cartilage damage in one or two compartments of the knee, a partial knee replacement 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.

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

Questions about total versus partial knee replacement?

If you have questions or want to learn more about either a total knee replacement or partial knee replacement, call our nurse navigator Kathryn Harada today. Kathryn brings a passion for helping patients learn about the types of procedures and the benefits and 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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