If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. That could be a mantra for younger people with knee arthritis who are reluctant to undergo major joint replacement surgery.
“A lot of people are resistant to doing a knee replacement. They want an alternate that will relieve their pain and keep them more functional,” says Dr. John Kagan, orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
The solution they seek may be a less traumatic procedure. An alternative option, a partial knee replacement restores only the side of the knee damaged by arthritis.
“The knee joint is comprised of three compartments. When you do a total knee replacement you replace all three compartments. When you do a partial knee replacement you replace one compartment, usually the inside compartment. Basically what you’re doing is going to the involved area, removing a small amount of bone and resurfacing it with metal and plastic. Rather than cutting both sides of the joint, removing the ligament or possibly two ligaments,” says Dr. Kagan.
With a third of the impact, it restores the knee to full function. The partial or unicompartmental replacement is performed surgically through a small opening. The downsized option also shrinks recovery time.
“Whereas a regular knee replacement might take 4-6 weeks, the partial knee replacement takes 2-4 weeks,” says Dr. Kagan.
For people who have normal knee function and arthritis in only one compartment, a partial knee replacement may be a step in the right direction.