Q:

Why do partial knee replacements have more potential complications than total knee replacements?

A:

Quick Answer

Partial knee replacements have the added complications of pain relief issues and the possibility of total knee replacement in the future, as this procedure only replaces one out of three knee compartments, notes the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The potential benefits outweigh these issues for many patients.

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Full Answer

If osteoarthritis or other damage only appears in one of the knee's three compartments, then partial knee replacement is a viable option. With this procedure, known as unicompartmental knee replacement, the surgeon only replaces the damaged compartment with plastic and metal, leaving the healthy parts of the knee where they are, according to the AAOS.

Partial knee replacement allows for a quicker recovery, less loss of blood and less discomfort after the operation than total knee replacement. Because the patient keeps so much of his own tissue and bone, he is more likely to have more of a natural feel from his knee after the procedure. In some cases, a partial knee replacement bends more naturally than total replacements, reports the AAOS.

However, if the degeneration continues, total knee replacement is sometimes necessary later. Also, pain relief issues are more common with partial knee replacement. Doctors and patients collaborate to choose between the two procedures on the basis of medical history, physical exam and imaging tests, as stated by the AAOS.

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