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The number of first-time total knee replacements, also known as arthroplasties, is expected to grow by 673 percent, reaching 3.48 million procedures by 2030, according to a study published by the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. The primary reasons that we feel contribute to this huge increase are the growing rates of baby boomers living longer and desiring to maintain youthful active lifestyles.
Historically, knee arthritis patients undergo full knee replacement to relieve arthritis pain, stay active, and maintain their quality of life. However, many patients could achieve these goals with partial knee replacements, which keep more of the original knee intact for a more natural-feeling joint. This procedure usually results in shorter recovery times and longer-lasting outcomes than traditional procedures.
LISTEN: Orthopedic surgeon Evan Argintar discusses joint replacement bioplasty in the Medical Intel podcast.
When should you choose partial knee replacement?
This search for long-term relief leads many people with arthritis of the knee to opt for a full knee replacement. A full knee replacement replaces the inside portion, outside portion, and underneath the kneecap. This is great if all three parts of the knee are diseased or arthritic. The problem with a full knee replacement is that you must sacrifice the ligaments on the inside of the knee, often changing how the knee feels. This results in a knee that feels artificial and is limited in the activities it can perform.
In addition, sometimes the inner or outer portion of the knee is worse than the rest of the joint. In this case, a full knee replacement might not be necessary, and a patient can opt for a partial knee replacement—allowing them to maintain their youth and activity, plus avoid some of the limitations inherent with a more major surgery.
We incorporate technologies of partial knee replacements with some of the isolated treatments we have done in the sports world, such as cartilage restoration or ligament reconstruction. In years past, if you had medial isolated arthritis on the inside of your knee without an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury, you had no option but to have a full knee replacement. Now, you can do a partial knee replacement with an ACL reconstruction. This is an exciting prospect for patients who want to get back to physical activity.
Who is a candidate for partial knee replacement?
Every person with arthritis likely has had a meniscal tear. These patients might be better off receiving a partial knee replacement in combination with some other cartilage-restorative procedure rather than arthroscopy alone. Arthroscopy will not predictably cure or relieve pain from arthritis.
Other candidates include those with knee pain who have been diagnosed with a degenerative disease in only one or two parts of their knee. If arthritis is found only underneath the knee, then a partial replacement can be performed to preserve as much normal anatomy as possible. The more we can preserve the ligaments, cartilage, and meniscus, the better the knee will feel. The term we use for this is bioplasty, which combines arthroplasty with biology, or your normal body.
Our patients benefit from a team approach. We have many experts who specialize in joint procedures, including:
- Partial knee replacement surgeries: Dr. Evan Argintar and Dr. Savyasachi Thakkar
- ACL reconstruction and cartilage preserving procedures: Dr. Evan Argintar and Dr. Wiemi Douoguih
Get back to being you
A partial knee replacement procedure is not only more comfortable and natural, but it also allows for a shorter recovery time compared to traditional surgery. With a full knee replacement, you would look at a minimum recovery time of six months. However, with new technological advances, a partial knee replacement requires only a four-month recovery period. This is huge for someone who is physically active. Moreover, there is less inflammation and pain, plus more mobility.
This approach worked out great for a patient who was in her 40s and had undergone a full knee meniscectomy (removal of meniscus from the knee) a decade earlier. At the time, she was working and continually active with her young children, but she was experiencing knee pain due to arthritis. She wanted to combat the pain, but the last thing she wanted to do was sacrifice two-thirds of her knee and restrict her mobility. To treat her, we did an ACL reconstruction, which allowed us to perform a successful partial knee replacement. Today, she’s back at work, exercising, and able to chase her children around.
If you’ve been experiencing knee pain from arthritis or a sports injury, don’t ignore it! You could be suffering from arthritis or a tear in one of your knee ligaments. Treating your condition early might mean you can spare more of your natural knee tissue, which can result in less pain and better function for years to come.