A partial knee replacement is a surgical procedure that is used to replace only part of a damaged knee. Contrary to a total knee replacement, which replaces the entire knee joint, a partial replacement only replaces the damaged tissue and bone in the knee joint with a prosthesis, notes MedlinePlus.
A partial knee replacement is an alternative to total knee replacement when the damage is limited to a specific part of the knee. It is performed on patients who may suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee, which is the wearing away of the articular cartilage within the joint. The cartilage prevents bones from rubbing against each other, acts as a shock absorber in the joint and allows for a smooth range of motion and stability within the joint. As the cartilage wears away, the joint can become inflamed leading to pain, stiffness and limited range of motion requiring replacement, explains Cleveland Clinic.
Partial knee replacements are preferred to total knee replacements because they better preserve the range of motion and knee function due to the preservation of more healthy tissue and bone in the knee. Recovery is usually much faster, and patients can often begin moving the knee the day following the surgery and expect to be back at full activity within a month of surgery, states Cleveland Clinic.