Osteoarthritis of the knee is painful and disabling. It is even worse when both knees are involved. While total knee replacements are very effective at relieving pain from arthritis, the rehab and recovery can be longer and prohibitive for some individuals. Medial joint space arthritis gives a curved “bow-leg” appearance to the legs as the cartilage wears out on the inner side of the knee. Partial knee replacements fill the lost cartilage space with a mobile bearing plastic insert along with a metal “resurfacing” of the worn out bone. We were able to help our active patient (above) get back into action with unicompartmental knee replacements ( partial knee replacements).
Partial knee replacements have a faster recovery than standard total knees. Less muscle is cut, and the skin incision is smaller. Most patients can do their own rehab with home exercises. Most of my patients feel the “uni” knee feels more natural. In a a research study during my Fellowship at Harvard, we asked patients who had one knee replaced with a total knee, and the other with a partial knee, how they compared. The majority felt that the partial knee had a more natural feel and function. This is partly because the cruciate ligaments (ACL and PCL) are left intact during a partial knee surgery. This leaves small nerve endings which provide “proprioception”; feedback to the brain also called position-sense intact. Partial knee patients can participate in more athletic activities than those with total knees. We know one energetic patient who is staying active with her unicondylar (partial) knees, and travelling the world again and again !