If you have knee problems that can’t be fixed with medication or other treatments, you may need knee replacement surgery. There are two types of surgeries: total knee replacement and partial knee replacement.
There are also different surgical approaches your doctor can use during the procedure, including traditional surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and computer assisted surgery. Before your procedure, you and your orthopedic doctor should discuss which options are best for your situation.
Total Knee Replacement
Total knee replacement is the traditional method of knee replacement. During the procedure, your surgeon will remove the damaged cartilage and a small piece of the femur and tibia.
Then, your surgeon will fit the tibial and femoral implants onto the bones, insert a plastic piece under your kneecap, and implant a plastic spacer between your femoral and tibial implants, which allows all of the components to glide against each other.
Total knee replacement implants almost always last for 10 years, and about 85 percent still work after 20 years. They can reduce pain and improve your mobility, but the recovery from the surgery can be lengthy and painful.
Partial Knee Replacement
Partial knee replacement only accounts for about 10 percent of knee replacement surgeries, but it requires less recovery time than total knee replacement. This procedure is ideal for people who still have some healthy bone and only need treatment on part of the knee.
During the procedure, your surgeon will remove the arthritic bone and cartilage and insert the replacement components.
The recovery from the surgery is usually less painful and difficult than recovery from total knee replacement, but partial replacement is slightly less likely to decrease knee pain.
Some people who receive partial knee replacement still need total knee replacement in the future.
During traditional surgery, the surgeon makes a 12-inch incision on the front of the knee and uses standard surgical techniques to turn the kneecap over.
The surgeon usually has to cut into the quadriceps tendon to reach the arthritic joint. Most patients need three to five days to recover in the hospital and 12 weeks to fully recover.
Minimally Invasive Surgery
Minimally invasive surgery reduces blood loss and lessens pain, which allows for a faster recovery time.
The incision with the minimally invasive approach is only 3 or 4 inches, and the surgeon will push the kneecap to the side instead of turning it over. This reduces the trauma to the quadriceps tendon and muscle.
Many people who receive this surgery experience a better range of motion than those who receive the traditional surgery. However, not everyone is eligible to receive the minimally invasive approach. Your doctor will decide whether you qualify after careful evaluation.
Computer Assisted Surgery
Some surgeons use computer assisted surgery, or CAS, for all types of knee replacement procedures. This approach involves entering the patient’s anatomical information into a computer and creating a 3D model of the knee.
This helps the surgeon be more precise in aligning the components of the replacement knee, and it lets the surgeon make a smaller incision. Patients who receive the CAS approach usually have a faster and easier recovery.