Partial Knee Arthroplasty- Another Option to Treat Knee Osteoarthritis

By: Jose Amundaray, M.D. 

Osteoarthritis is a condition caused by the wear and tear of the articular cartilage, the padding that covers the surface of the bone in our joints.  Once osteoarthritis sets in it can cause debilitating joint pain, stiffness and functional impairments that sometimes limit our activities of daily living and hampers our quality of life. Unfortunately, the natural history of the disease is to progress. 

Millions of Americans are affected from knee osteoarthritis.  In the early stages, knee osteoarthritis can be treated conservatively with medications, injections, ambulatory assistance devices, physical therapy, weight loss and activity modifications among other modalities.  Once the conservative treatment fails the patient becomes a surgical candidate.  The conventional treatment has been surgical reconstruction of the entire knee joint with a total knee arthroplasty (total knee replacement) that replaces the three compartments of the knee with prosthetic implants.

Partial knee arthroplasty (partial knee replacement) is another surgical option for some of the patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis.  The procedure can greatly benefit people who have osteoarthritis in only one compartment of the knee.  Instead of replacing the entire knee, partial knee arthroplasty replaces only the part of the knee damaged by osteoarthritis, leaving the rest of the knee untouched. 

Partial knee arthroplasty has multiple advantages when compared to a total knee arthroplasty.  The procedure is done through a smaller incision.  In addition, there is less bone removal, soft tissue damage and blood loss.  The cruciate and collateral ligaments are left intact.  All of these lead to a knee that after surgery is less painful and recovers faster with a lower complication rate.  The patients use pain medications and ambulatory assistance devices for shorter periods.   In general, partial knee arthroplasty has better knee range of motion and kinematics.  Many patient that had both procedures indicated that the partial knee arthroplasty “feels more natural”.

Partial knee arthroplasty patients are mobilized and ambulate the same day of surgery.  Most patients go home within 23 hours from surgery.  Some go home the same day of surgery.  Most patient return to regular activities in 4 to 6 weeks.    

Partial knee arthroplasty is not for everybody with knee osteoarthritis.  The orthopedic surgeon will do an adequate evaluation, physical exam and radiologic studies to determine if the patient is an adequate candidate for the procedure.  I have been performing partial knee arthroplasties since 1999.  In my experience, it is a procedure with excellent and reliable outcomes that has improved the quality of life of many patients.