November 1, 2015

Partial Knee Replacement Surgery


By Randy Clark, MD


Many patients present to our office in need of knee surgery. They are often surprised to learn that they are candidates for a partial (rather than complete) knee replacement. It has been our experience that many of our patients are not aware of this possibility, so we would like to take this opportunity to educate the general public.

Partial knee replacement surgery has a long history dating back to the early 1970s. Part of the appeal is that it is a less invasive and less painful surgery, permits quicker post-operative recovery, provides improved range of motion, retains more normal tissue, and is less expensive. A partial knee replacement is more likely to mimic the natural motion pattern of a normal knee as compared to a total knee replacement.

partial vs. total knee replacement implants

Other advantages include shorter hospital stays and better knee soft tissue balance and kinematics by preservation of the cruciate ligaments. Patients who had partial knee replacements reported improved ability to handle stairs and kneeling, had lower pain scores, less need for assistive devices, lower chance of blood transfusion and lower risk of infection.

The incidence of complications in partial versus total knee replacements are 4% in total knees versus 1.7% in partial knees at 20 years.

A few studies have actually compared partial knees to total knee replacements in the same patient. They found a slight preference for the partial knee replacement.

Many patients ask if a partial knee is just a “bridge to a total knee replacement”. Outcome studies in 2002 and 2005 revealed 94% and 98% of the patients did not need any further surgery. (Argensen and Berger). Published results of survival of partial knee replacements in multiple series rival outcomes reported by total knee replacement at 10 years.

Currently only 10% of knee replacements done in this country are partials, but recent studies indicate that up to 30% of knee replacement patients would be candidates for a partial knee.

We have been successfully performing outpatient partial knee replacements at Coral Desert Surgery Center. Many of our patients are able to return to work and sports within 4-6 weeks. We are seeing an expanding indication for this procedure, and have found that our patients are extremely satisfied.

If you would like to learn more about this procedure, please schedule a consultation at Coral Desert Orthopaedics or visit my website at


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