Will You Really Be Replacing Your Knee? The 101 On Partial Knee Replacement Surgery

An estimated 600,000 knee replacement surgeries will be necessary each year in the United States due to damaged cartilage in and around the knee joint. Many disorders and injuries can damage the knee joint, resulting in pain and loss of mobility. In many cases, this damage occurs due to a sports-related injury or accident, but osteoarthritis is a common condition that wears down the cartilage in the knee.

If you fall into one of the previous scenarios, and physical therapy and other remedies haven't worked, then you may be considering more invasive measures. Using this guide, you will understand the steps involved in a partial replacement surgery and learn the best options for healing and recovery.

Steps for Your Surgery

While surprising to hear, your surgeon will not actually replace your damaged knee with a new one. During a partial replacement surgery, the actual bones of the knee are resurfaced, not replaced. The surgery involves the following steps:

  • Removal of Damaged Cartilage – A surgeon, like Northwoods Family Orthopaedics SC, will first remove any damaged cartilage on the ends of the tibia and femur bones. In addition, a thin layer of underlying bone is removed to ensure a more secure resurfacing.
  • Positioning of Implants – A metal material is implanted onto the surface of the knee joint.
  • Resurfacing the Kneecap – A plastic implant is inserted onto the patella, or kneecap.
  • Inserting the Spacer – Your surgeon will insert a plastic spacer between the metal implants. This spacer allows the knee joint to move in a more smooth, comfortable manner.

Rest and Recovery 

While knee replacement surgeries are safe and effective, taking the proper steps in your recovery is imperative for success.

Your surgeon will close up incisions using sutures or staples, which will remain in place for a few weeks after your surgery. Incision site infections develop in 3 percent of all surgical procedures, so taking proper precaution is essential. Change your bandages daily and clean the incision sites as directed by your doctor. Be sure to cover the incision site with plastic and a waterproof bandage before bathing.

You will need to avoid heavy activity for the first few days after your surgery; and, you will want to work with your physical therapist to design a safe, effective plan for recovery. This may involve walking with a walker or cane, thus increasing  your walking distance and speed each day. Fortunately, most patients are able to return to normal activities within 3 to 6 months!

If you were hesitant about considering surgery, now you know that it won't be a complete bone replacement and that the healing rates are good if you are proactive.