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Partial vs. Total…
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Partial vs. Total Knee Replacement Surgery

July 25, 2017
Diagram of a knee.

DOC’s orthopedic surgeon will be specifically concerned with the location of the knee pain. If the pain is located almost entirely on either the inside portion or outside portion of the knee, then the guest patient may be a candidate for a partial or unicompartmental knee replacement. If the pain is throughout the entire knee or in the front of the knee under the kneecap, then the patient guest may be better qualified for a total knee replacement. The knee is divided into three major compartments:

  • Medial compartment (the inside part of the knee)
  • Lateral compartment (the outside part)
  • Patellofemoral compartment (the front of the knee between the kneecap and thighbone)


In knee osteoarthritis, the cartilage protecting the bones of the knee slowly wears away. This can occur just in a single area of the knee or throughout the knee joint. Advanced osteoarthritis that is limited to a single area may be treated with a partial knee replacement. During this procedure, the damaged compartment is replaced with metal and plastic. The healthy cartilage and bone, as well as all of the ligaments, are preserved. The advantages of partial knee replacement over total knee replacement include quicker recovery, less pain after surgery and less blood loss. Since the bone, cartilage, and ligaments in the healthy parts of the knee are kept, many guest patients report that a partial knee replacement feels more natural than a total knee replacement. Dr. Sean Hassinger, a DOC orthopedic surgeon, explains: I have several patients with a total knee on one side and a partial on the other side. They universally tell me the partial knee feels better. My advice would be for you to not delay going to DOC for your knee pain. If caught early, you could be a candidate for a partial knee replacement.


About Knee Replacement Surgery

A total knee replacement, knee arthroplasty, is really a knee “resurfacing” because only the surface of the bones is replaced. The damaged cartilage is removed with a small amount of underlying bone and replaced with metal components that recreate the surface of the joint. The under-surface of the patella, kneecap, is cut and resurfaced with a plastic button. A medical-grade plastic spacer is inserted between the metal components to create a smooth gliding surface. Knee replacement surgery was first performed in 1968. Since then, improvements in surgical materials and techniques have greatly increased its effectiveness. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States.  


Is Knee Replacement Surgery Right for You?

A thorough evaluation with DOC’s orthopedic surgeon will determine whether the guest patient is a good candidate for a partial or total knee replacement. He or she will determine the location of the pain through the knee range of motion tests. X-rays and an MRI will enable the physician to see the pattern of arthritis and evaluate the cartilage damage. After partial or total knee replacement, it is important to follow-up with the DOC orthopedic surgeon at regular intervals to monitor healing and discuss appropriate aftercare for the best possible recovery.


To learn about other knee conditions treated by DOC, visit us here. For more information on the cost of care, click here.




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