Today's Medicine

What You Need to Know about Knee Replacement

When it’s time for a knee replacement

There are many causes of knee pain and if non-surgical treatment options have failed, a knee replacement may be an option for you. This is one of many treatment options that can help alleviate your knee pain. 

A knee replacement is a surgical procedure that replaces the worn out or damaged surfaces of the knee joint with artificial parts. If you are having knee pain that is affecting the quality of your life, I am always happy to talk about options we have to relieve your pain and get you back to the activities you enjoy. 

Getting the diagnosis

If your knee is hurting, it does not always mean you will need a knee replacement. The first step in treating your knee pain, and one of the most important steps, is having an appropriate diagnosis. When you see an orthopedic surgeon such as myself, we start by going over a detailed medical history, performing a physical exam, and obtaining x-rays of your knees.

Once we have a diagnosis, we're able to put together a comprehensive treatment plan which is individualized for you. Osteoarthritis, for example, is a common cause of knee pain in adults and there are many non-surgical treatment options we can offer before considering knee replacement. Treatment often starts with trialing an anti-inflammatory medication or modifying specific activities to see if that may be all that's needed.

When pain persists

If the least invasive routes don’t work, we may try other measures which are still less invasive than a knee replacement. That can include a scope, injections, viscous supplementation or even physical therapy.

Surgical solutions

If you fail to obtain pain relief from medications, injections, physical therapy or other non-surgical options, and your advanced osteoarthritis is causing severe knee pain which is affecting the quality of your life, you may be a candidate for a partial versus total knee replacement surgery. 

Your knee is divided into three compartments: the inside, the outside, and under the kneecap. 
Sometimes, when only one of these three compartments has advanced arthritis, a partial knee replacement may be an option. A partial knee replacement uses the same type of metal and plastic, but only replaces one of the three compartments of the knee. So rather than changing all three compartments or 100 percent of your knee, we’re only changing one third of your knee.

Benefits of a partial replacement

There are some benefits to a partial instead of a total knee replacement:

  • A less invasive procedure
  • Quicker recovery time
  • A more natural feeling knee

A partial replacement is very appealing to patients who are at a higher level of function, do a lot of activities, and want to get back to work or the activities they enjoy quicker. 

Recovery time

The recovery time for a partial knee replacement tends to be faster than recovery for a total knee replacement. Patients are often not using any assistive device to walk within a few weeks of surgery. The knee is still sore and it takes a while to get strength back, but at four to six weeks, patients are walking unassisted for multiple blocks, still not walking a mile, still not playing 18 holes of golf, but certainly on their way to doing that. Probably within three months, patients are able to play a full 18-hole round of golf. 

"With total knee replacements, recovery is just a little farther behind. At six months, patients are doing very, very well, just as they would with a partial knee replacement, but the recovery is just a little bit quicker with a partial knee replacement."

Dr. Jon Uggen
Orthopedic Surgeon

The downside to a partial replacement

By leaving two thirds of your knee alone, there’s a chance you could develop arthritis in one of those compartments that has been left untouched. But if you do have issues down the road, and again fail non-operative treatment, converting the partial knee to a total knee could be an option.

Discuss the risks

As with any surgery, there are risks. I or my fellow orthopedic surgeons are happy to should discuss those risks and help you decide if replacement is the right option for you. As your orthopedic surgeon, my goal is much like yours, to get you healthy and back on your feet, enjoying life as quickly as possible.

About the Author

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jon Uggen is devoted to providing “110 percent care.” He cares deeply for each of his patients, treating each person like family.

Dr. Uggen is an orthopedic surgeon at MD West ONE. Methodist is proud to partner with MD West ONE and its team of orthopedic, neurosurgery and spine specialists.

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