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In this post we will go over the general differences between total knee replacement and partial knee replacement. A patient who experiences persistent knee pain or stiffness, difficulty standing or walking, or deformity in the knee joint may be a candidate for knee replacement surgery. However, the decision of which surgery to undergo depends on the extent and location of damage in the knee joint. An orthopedic surgeon can evaluate a patient's condition and recommend the best course of treatment.

Total Knee Replacement

Total knee replacement (also known as total knee arthroplasty) (abbreviated TKR or TKA), as the name suggests, is a surgical procedure that involves replacing the entire knee joint with an artificial implant. This is typically done when both the tibial and femoral parts of the knee joint are affected by osteoarthritis or other conditions that cause pain and limit mobility. In this procedure, the surgeon removes the damaged bone and cartilage from the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shinbone), and kneecap (patella) and replaces them with metal or plastic components. A cemented or non-cemented prosthesis is used to replace the damaged joint, and the artificial joint is attached to the bone with a cement-like material. This procedure is done for patients who have advanced arthritis in the entire knee joint, severe pain, and limited mobility. Total knee replacement surgery can provide significant relief from chronic knee pain and restore mobility.

Partial Knee Replacement

Also known as unicompartmental knee replacement (abbreviated UKA), involves replacing only the damaged or affected portion of the knee joint. This is done when the arthritis or other conditions are limited to one part of the knee, typically in the medial (inner side) or lateral (outer side) compartment. The benefit of a partial knee replacement is that it requires smaller incisions, less blood loss, and a quicker recovery period. This surgery has typically less margin for error so it should be done by surgeon well versed in this procedure.

Who is a Candidate for Each Surgery?

Total knee replacement is recommended for patients with severe arthritis or knee injuries that have affected the entire joint. Candidates for total knee replacement may experience severe pain and stiffness, limiting their ability to perform daily activities like walking or climbing stairs.

Partial knee replacement is recommended for patients with arthritis that is limited to one area of the knee joint. Candidates for partial knee replacement may experience pain and stiffness localized to one area of the knee, often with intact ligaments and cartilage in the rest of the joint. Candidates for partial knee replacement are often (but not always) younger and more active than candidates for total knee replacement.

In conclusion, both total and partial knee replacement surgeries are viable options for patients suffering from knee pain and reduced function. However, the decision to undergo either surgery should be made in consultation with an experienced orthopedic surgeon who can recommend the most appropriate procedure based on the patient's individual condition, age, and activity level.