Knee pain caused by arthritis can affect your quality of life, limiting your mobility and keeping you from activities you love. This inflammation of the knee joint is due to the deterioration of cartilage in the joint.

Nonsurgical methods can help to relieve pain and stiffness, but further treatment may be required. Fortunately, there are surgical options to treat the condition, such as partial knee resurfacing or a total knee replacement. While both procedures help to alleviate pain and restore function in the knee, it’s important to understand the differences so you are informed about the route your orthopedic surgeon will take.

Understanding knee anatomy

The areas in your knee in which arthritis is present can play a factor in which procedure you pursue. The knee is made up of three compartments: the kneecap (patella), the inner part of the knee (medial), and the outer (lateral) side of the joint, which is joined by the femur and tibia. All or some of these areas can be damaged by arthritis, which can determine if a partial surgery is required or if the whole knee needs to be replaced.

What does each procedure involve?

Partial knee resurfacing surgery entails the resurfacing of one portion of the damaged knee and replacing it with an implant. During this procedure, the surgeon will create a small incision in the affected portion of the knee and remove any damaged cartilage and bone tissue from the surface. An artificial implant (prosthetic) will then be inserted. Total knee replacement involves replacing the entire joint with artificial surfaces. The surgeon will make an incision and remove the knee joint, including all damaged surfaces, and then replace it with metal and plastic implants.

Considering all factors

The obvious difference between the surgeries is that a partial knee surgery doesn’t involve replacing the entire knee. A partial knee replacement makes sense when only a portion of the joint is damaged. However, there are other factors to take into consideration.

Partial knee surgery advantages:

  • Less invasive
  • Less time in surgery
  • Faster recovery and lower pain rate
  • Better range of motion
  • More “natural” feel to the knee
  • Fewer complications

Partial knee surgery disadvantages:

  • Candidates can not have damage to the whole knee, leg deformity, be overweight, or have inflammatory arthritis
  • An increased chance of needing additional surgery in the future
  • Potential worsening of arthritis

Total knee surgery advantages:

  • Greater joint stability
  • Lower risk of requiring surgery in the future
  • Less pain
  • Corrects deformities in knee

Total knee surgery disadvantages:

  • Involves a bigger incision
  • Extensive surgery
  • Risk of complications
  • Longer recovery time

By understanding the difference between the two procedures and enlisting the expertise of your orthopedic surgeon, you will be better informed to decide which option is best for you. There’s no need to live with joint pain and hold back from doing the activities you love.

Orthopedic surgeon Michael Fracchia, MD, says, “Mather Hospital continues to be at the forefront of the latest knee technologies. All of the knee replacements done at Mather are performed with state-of-the art equipment, including robotics and/or computer assistance. These technologies greatly increase the final outcome of the procedure and the longevity of the implant.  Mather is proud that it continues with one of the lowest infection rates in the NYS.”

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