As an orthopedic physician assistant, patients often ask me about partial knee replacement. How is it different from conventional knee replacement? What is the recovery time? What does outpatient mean?
It’s not just patients asking, but also their family members.
Mrs. “Smith” is a good example. We saw her many times in the office with her father for his regular follow-ups after bilateral knee replacements. Just like her dad, Mrs. Smith suffers from knee arthritis. We learned this after she obtained an X-ray and returned to see me as a patient.
Unlike her dad, her arthritis was confined to only one area of the knee. After trying to manage the pain with medication and other conservative methods, her discomfort continued to progress and her activity level decreased. She was ready to consider partial knee replacement.
More than 27 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, which led to more than half a million knee replacement surgeries in 2010. Knee osteoarthritis usually occurs first in the medial (inside) compartment, as this side of the knee bears most of our body weight.
For those with arthritis that is limited to one compartment, such as Mrs. Smith, partial knee replacement is a great option. Unlike total knee replacement, which involves removal of all the knee joint surfaces, a partial knee replacement only affects one side of the knee joint.
By preserving all of the normal surfaces and ligaments, the joint functions more naturally. Importantly, this procedure is less invasive than traditional knee replacement. It requires a much smaller incision, involves minimal trauma to surrounding soft tissues, and can allow patients to recover rather quickly (in six to eight weeks) with less discomfort than with a total knee replacement.
This procedure can prolong or completely avert the need for a future total knee replacement.
Partial knee replacements are performed frequently across the U.S. It is very important that our patients are well informed if they choose this procedure.
Dr. Andrew Brooks, who serves as medical director for NorthBay’s Joint Replacement Program, and I insist on preoperative appointments to educate patients who are considering surgery, and we have a patient navigator to assist our patients through the preoperative and postoperative period, guiding patients and their families to ensure the entire experience, including recovery, is as smooth as possible.
With minimally invasive surgery, patient education and appropriate pain management, our patients undergoing partial knee replacement are able to go home the same day.
In Mrs. Smith’s case, her goals were clear: she wanted to eliminate the pain, have a short recovery period with rapid mobility, return to normal activity quickly and be able to continue with her regular life activities with relatively little interruption. A partial knee replacement was an ideal solution. And she really appreciated being discharged just hours after the surgery to rehab in her own home instead of staying overnight in the hospital.
Partial knee replacement is not for everyone, but if you or someone you know suffers from knee pain, then this surgery could be the answer. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 624-7900.
Hannah Krimins Mertens is a physician assistant at the Center for Orthopedic Specialists, a NorthBay Healthcare affiliate.