Knee Replacement Surgery: Total Replacement Vs Partial Replacement

If you are suffering from knee pain, either due to disease (e.g. arthritis) or injury, your doctor or surgeon may suggest knee replacement surgery as the best solution for your problem. In general, there are two major types of knee replacement surgeries: total and partial. With a total knee replacement operation, the femur, tibia and knee cap are encased with metal or plastic to reduce wear. With a partial operation, only the worn or damaged parts are encased with a prosthesis. Below, see how these two compare in regards to recuperation and other factors.

Operation time

Because partial knee replacement surgery only covers the affected areas of the knee joint, the operation is more limited in scope compared to a total knee replacement. As such, the procedure takes much less time. In some cases, only parts of the knee cap will be replaced. And at other times, only parts of either the thighbone or the tibia will be worked on. Therefore, you can expect to be out of the operation room much quicker if undergoing a partial replacement. 

Ease of operation

Not only is a partial knee replacement surgery faster to undertake, it is easier to carry out as well. One major reason for this is that the surgeon will only need to make a small incision over the affected area. This reduces the amount of bleeding expected as well as the risk of possible complications such as infection. Partial knee replacements are also easier for you as you experience less pain and less post-surgery soreness. 

Knee rehabilitation time

As you would imagine at this point, a partial knee surgery will require less rehabilitation as compared to a total knee replacement. Rehabilitation commences immediately after the surgery has been completed and continues for several weeks after leaving the hospital. With a partial knee replacement, you are able to stand and walk almost immediately after the operation. Your rehabilitation period is also much shorter so you're able to resume work and outdoor sporting faster. 

Need for follow-up surgery

It may seem like a partial knee replacement is better than a total replacement in every sense, but it is not. Total knee replacements have one major advantage over their alternative; there is usually less need to carry out a follow up surgery later on. With partial knee replacements, chances are higher that other parts of your knee that were not worked on may later experience wear and require replacement as well. And this would require that you get back into the operation room.

The decision of which type of knee replacement surgery to undergo is a critical one that should be discussed by you, your doctor and your surgeon. In most cases, the scope of the damage and risk of continuity will determine which to go for.