A Partial Knee Replacement is a procedure that is undertaken to relieve pain and restore function of a knee joint in which part of the knee is severely worn out due to arthritis
What is a Partial Knee Replacement?
During the procedure, only this part of the damaged cartilage and bone are cut away, and replaced with a Partial artificial joint, made from metal and high-grade plastic. Rest of the Knee is preserved.
The benefits of this operation are a smaller incision, less bone removal as compared with a total knee replacement and less blood loss. The time spent in hospital and overall time to full recovery is likely to be shorter than a Total Knee replacement. A partial knee replacement may be considered if you have arthritis confined to one part of the knee.
The decision to undergo a Partial Knee Replacement is a joint one between you, your family, GP and the Orthopaedic Surgeon. Those who benefit from a Partial Knee replacement have one of the following symptoms:
- Severe pain or stiffness in the Knee that limits day to day activities like walking, climbing stairs, and getting into and out of vehicles. Walking distance may be restricted and may need the use of a stick.
- Severe Knee pain at rest or disturbing sleep
- Failure to improve with other treatments like pain killers/anti-inflammatory tablets, cortisone injections or physiotherapy
Patient’s recovery following a Partial Knee Replacement is often quicker as it is less painful. Patients have less swelling and return to normal daily activities and work much faster than a Total Knee Replacement.
A Partial Knee Replacement is usually done under a regional anaesthetic (which numbs you from the waist down) or sometimes under a general anaesthetic (which puts you to sleep).
The surgeon will begin by making an incision of around 10cm, allowing the kneecap to be moved aside and the damaged joint surface to be cut away. After testing the components for proper function, the parts of the new partial knee are fitted. The incision is then closed. A Partial Knee Replacement usually takes about 1 hour to complete.
After the procedure, you will be taken to a recovery room for a few hours, before being moved to a hospital room where you will stay for one to two days. You will be given painkillers such as opioids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
You are encouraged to start moving your foot and ankle as soon as possible, to increase blood flow through the leg muscles and reduce the risk of blood clots. Your activity level will gradually be increased, and a physiotherapist will demonstrate how to exercise your new knee, increasing its range of motion and building up the strength of the muscles around it. You will be given an exercise programme for the weeks following the procedure, as well as instructions on wound care and diet.
It is important to have realistic expectations and understand what a knee replacement can and can not do. While most patients will have excellent relief of pain and stiffness, a Partial Knee replacement will not allow you to do more than what you could do before the onset of arthritis. The activities one may be able to do after a successful Partial Knee Replacement would include unlimited walking, swimming, hiking, biking, dancing, Golf, and light Badminton or Tennis. High impact activities are not advisable.
Following surgery, it is important to work with the Physiotherapy team diligently to build on the core strength of the muscles around the knee and improve the range of motion. A Partial Knee replacement is only as good as how much effort one is willing to put in. It is also important to understand that it may take up to a year to achieve significant improvement in symptoms and function.
Knee replacement is a very successful operation. However, like any other procedures, there are risks associated with a partial Knee Replacement that you must be aware of and accept prior to undergoing the procedure. The risks include Infection, Clots (Deep Vein Thrombosis), Embolus, Stiffness, Persistent pain, incomplete relief of symptoms following surgery, Vessel or Nerve damage, re-operation/revision, medical, anaesthetic and mortality risks. As a surgical team, we make every effort to minimise these risks. This will include giving antibiotics before and after surgery, Injection/Tablet and use of surgical stockings to reduce the risk of clots and thorough pre and post-operative assessment and care.