If you are suffering from knee pain and your orthopedic doctor recommends surgery, you have some options to think about before you go under the knife. The cause of your knee problem could limit your choices, of course, but it is important to understand what types of knee replacement surgeries are available to modern patients.
Total or Partial Knee Replacement
A total knee replacement is exactly what it sounds like. The surgeon will cut away any bone that has been damaged and will replace that bone with synthetic pieces that have been uniquely sized to fit your knee. The surgery typically happens in four steps.
First the surgeon cuts or scrapes away existing bone. Then metal implants are either glued or press-fitted to the exposed bone of the tibia and femur. Press-fitted implants are designed to organically knit with the natural bones. Once the implants are in place, a small plastic button is placed under the kneecap.
In the last step the surgeon places a plastic spacer between the bone implants to provide cushioning for and allow natural motion to the joint. Some possible complications with a total knee replacement include infection, blood clots, and in some cases the implants can become dislodged.
Total Knee Replacement
Total knee replacement requires physical therapy that can be painful, and patients should expect to use crutches or other walking aids until the knee is fully healed.
Partial knee replacement is exactly what you would expect it to be. The surgeon only removes and replaces the specific part of the knee that is damaged or causing pain. Partial knee replacement offers faster recovery times and fewer side effects, but it is only available to a small percentage of patients.
The majority of partial replacements are done on younger patients or patients who suffer from osteoarthritis that causes pain in an isolated part of the knee.
Standard Surgery or Less Invasive
Most knee replacement surgeries involve opening the knee with a 10 to 12 inch incision just to the side of the kneecap. In most cases a tendon is also severed to allow the surgeon to freely manipulate the bones of the knee.
This traditional approach can require up to a week in the hospital for recovery and several months of rehabilitation after the surgery.
A less invasive surgical option requires an incision of only 3 or 4 inches. This approach reduces blood loss and other complications that can arise from the traditional surgery.
In a minimally invasive procedure, the kneecap is not fully rotated by the surgeon, which means the tendon attached to the kneecap does not need to be severed. Recovery from less invasive surgeries is generally faster and less painful.
High Tech Options
Computers are constantly changing surgical options in the modern operating room. Computer assisted knee replacement surgery allows a surgeon to create a three dimensional model of the patient’s knee in a special computer.
The computer software allows a surgeon to align the knee implants with a much higher degree of precision, which can lead to far fewer complications after the surgery. Precise alignment can help the implant last longer, as well, because it reduces uneven wear.